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Rescue drama: Pole Creek firefighter jumps in water bucket

By John Hendricks
Published On: Oct 25 2012 12:23:32 AM CDT
Updated On: Oct 25 2012 10:17:05 AM CDT

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks breaks down a report that details a dramatic rescue during the Pole Creek fire

BEND, Ore. -

A new report released by the Forest Service is shedding more light on the dramatic water-bucket rescue of a firefighter from the fast-moving flames of the Pole Creek Fire near Sisters in late September.

On Friday, Sept. 28, a task force leader and a water-dropping helicopter were doing bucket work on the west side of the blaze. The weather was fairly tame and fire activity was minimal.

But just after 12:55 p.m., as the helicopter was leaving to refuel, the pilot noticed the fire kicking up, closing off evacuation routes for the firefighter.

He radioed down, warning of the danger. The firefighter radioed back, saying he would be fine.

The pilot responded: "You don't see what I'm looking at. You need to get in the bucket now!"

Ten minutes after the fire was seen flaring up, the firefighter told the pilot, "You can see better than I, and I'm going to trust your judgement." He got into the bucket and was lifted a half-mile to safety.

As they were flying to safety, the pilot looked back and said he believed the pick-up area already was engulfed in flames.

A 20-page safety report outlines the rescue. It also details what was learned from the events of that day.

"One of the main things that we've learned is the difference in perspective between the eye in the sky, the pilot in the aircraft, and the person on the ground," said Tim Hoiness, a fire and safety manager.

Hoiness says the incident illustrates how cross-training between pilots and people on the ground can better help fight fires.

"It helps us learn, and it brings out open and honest discussion," said Hoiness. "There is no punitive action. We would rather learn from something why it happened, and it's something we can train for and learn from in the future."

To read the full report (an Adobe Acrobat pdf file), click here.

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