From The Desk of The Editor

There I was, overrun by fire. Helicopter to the rescue!

Many years ago, I participated in endurance sports to include marathons, triathlons, and adventure racing (AR). A typical AR event comprised of running, paddling, mountain biking, and land navigation. They could be 30 to 100 miles, and could vary in duration from 6 to 48 hours. I swore that when I got out of the U.S. Marines, that I would never again run through the forest with a back pack. But there I was, spending money to do it. Duh!

During one AR, a large forest fire broke out six hours into the race. My team was not on a trail, but short-cutting through a deep thicket of highly flammable palmetto bushes. Because we could not see over the bushes, our first sign that there was a fire was by the smell of smoke.

Fortunately, myself and one other teammate were career firefighters. We knew our situation was serious and needed to take action. I shimmied up a nearby pine tree to gain a visual and saw that we were three-quarters of a mile downwind of a 40-acre-wide fire rapidly moving in our direction. There was no outpacing the fire on foot in any direction. This fire was going to overtake our position. Luckily, we had just passed a swamp bog about half the size of a football field, so we hiked our way back to it and waded into three-foot-deep marsh while watching the fire consume everything around us.

After the fire passed, our strategy was to stay in the burned areas and hike a heading that would hopefully lead to a set of railroad tracks. After an hour of navigating in heavy smoke, among the spot fires, and in near-zero visibility, we hit the railroad tracks. At that moment we were tired, covered in soot, and our lungs and eyes were burning badly. The smoke was so thick that we could not see in any direction and I was not sure whether to turn left or right. And then I heard it . . .a sound that I knew by heart . . . the sound of a Bell 206 in the distance flying down the tracks and heading in our direction.

Like Moses parting the Red Sea, that helicopter came overhead at 75 feet and parted the smoke with fresh air as it came to a high hover over our heads. A crewman

in the open door hand-signaled to walk in a northerly direction for one mile. We did not walk, but ran until we were met by a 5-ton forestry truck which hauled us out of our hell. As we drove, one of the racers in our group began to cry. I asked her if she was OK? She just said, “Thank God for that helicopter, that’s the closest I have ever come to dying. I really thought we were going to die today!”

My sentiment exactly. Rotorcraft Pro dedicates this issue to all those in the business of aerial firefighting. Thanks for your service!

Lyn Burks, Editor In Chief

Publisher Brig Bearden Editor-In-Chief Lyn Burks Assistant Editor Pam Landis Account Executive Teri Rivas Layout Design Bryan Matuskey Boris Grauden Online Accounts Manager Lynnette Burks Copy Editor

Rick Weatherford Social Media Guru Laura Lentz

Subscription / Circulation Manager Pam Fulmer

Contributing Writers

James Careless Sharon Desfor

Rick Weatherford Eric Lian

Matt Johnson

Randy Mains Brad McNally Tim Pruitt

Randy Rowles Scott Skola

Rotorcraft Pro®

is published six times

a year and mailed out on or around the 10th of every other month by: Rotorcraft Pro Media Netwok, Inc. Rotorcraft Pro® is distributed free to qualified subscrib- ers. Non-qualified subscription rates are $57.00 per year in the U.S. and Canada, $125.00 per year for foreign subscribers (surface mail). U.S. postage paid at Fall River, Wisconsin, and additional mailing offices. Publisher is not liable for all content

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Corporate Officers Brig Bearden / COO Lyn Burks / CEO Mailing Address

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Mar/Apr 2017

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