Fire fighters learn helicopter techniques - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Fire fighters learn helicopter techniques

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July 14, 2005

Thomasville-- Eight state and federal agencies are in Thomasville training forestry workers on the benefits of helicopters. It's a collaborative effort with the Nature Conservancy to help fight wildfires and better use prescribed burning.

Helicopters are one of the most powerful weapons in the Georgia Forestry Service's arsenal against wildfires. "There's lots all over this region of the country," said Sam Lindblom of the The Nature Conservancy.

This week in Thomasville, Sam Lindblom of the Nature Conservancy is learning just how valuable helicopters are, and how to manage and coordinate them during wildfires, or prescribed burns. "How to safely operate around helicopters, how to load equipment in and out of helicopters without damaging the equipment or the helicopters."

Lindblom is earning national certification that allows forestry crews to fight fires anywhere in the country.

A certification Forestry Service Pilot Mike Leverette says is integral to fire fighting in remote areas. "We've got the ability to move more water to the fire faster than you can move it with trucks and hoses," said Leverette.

The Bell 407 is just one of the Georgia Forestry Service's four helicopters. The best part about each of them is that they're multi-use. They don't just fight fires. They also help prevent them. "If the fire danger rating is high enough, we patrol the entire state of Georgia every afternoon," says Leverette.

A day's work that pays off. Case in point when you look at the Forestry Service's record. "Georgia is able to keep an average fire size of under five acres. We pretty much lead the nation."

A nation whose beauty Lindblom will eagerly conserve- from above. "I'm very much looking forward to working more with helicopters." Helicopters that can rush to a fire at about 165 miles per hour.

The Forestry Service says a lot of wildfires are started by prescribed burns that get out of hand. Officials are urging people to get a permit before burning, so they can help make sure the fires don't get out of control.

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