Video: What it looks like when a helicopter flies into a wildfire

This video, from the Los Angeles Fire Department, is as compelling — maybe, more so — as anything that’s come out of the California wildfires so far.

The crew was dropping water on the so-called Woolsey Fire earlier this month when it got a call to rescue people trapped on a mountain top.

As the video, shows, the helicopter had to fly into thick smoke, and avoid transmission towers, vehicles, and trees. Oh, and they were getting low on fuel. And, of course, there was this fast-approaching fire.

When a pilot says, “this isn’t good,” it usually precedes disaster.

The pilot filmed the incident with a camera on his helmet. Notice him shifting between watching the approaching victims and watching the approaching flames.

(h/t: Leonard Foonimin)

  • MrE85

    If this rescue had not worked, the death toll would be a little higher today. Remarkable.

  • AmiSchwab

    good people doing a great job. hint hint djt

  • Brian Simon

    Just a couple of guys doing their job, the best that they can. I can’t imagine how many stories like that there are from these fires.

  • >>When a pilot says, “this isn’t good”<<

    It's usually a massive understatement…

    • 212944

      Like hearing the surgeon say, “Oops” just you you go under.

  • *after watching the video*

    Some heroes don’t wear capes….they fly helicopters.

    • Joseph

      “If you are in trouble anywhere in the world, an airplane can fly over and drop flowers, but a helicopter can land and save your life.”
      – Igor Sikorsky, Father of the helicopter.

  • Tyler

    I’m inclined to make a comment wondering where the pilot stows his mammoth fortitude.

  • Gary F

    At what point with all that smoke and soot in the air does the air filter plug on the engine?

    • From a specific technical point of view, I can’t answer but from a pilot point of view I can’t imagine it’s much more than this. Soot and ash are going to make it impossible for an engine to mix air with the fuel and you’ll end up with an overly rich mixture, I would imagine. As the pilot said, “not good.”

      • Gary F

        Then you become a flaming marshmallow.

  • emersonpie

    Not intending to be critical, but I am wondering what motivated three people to go for a walk on a mountain where there is a fire nearby. If they were a maintenance crew for the antennas, I don’t think they would have their dogs there.

    • The heli transmissions mentioned that they were radio technicians, but they could also be local residents trapped by road closures..

      • Yes, it’s possible they scampered up that hill from the side of the fire.

  • >>As the video, shows, the helicopter had to fly into thick smoke, and avoid transmission towers, vehicles, and trees.<<

    The place they landed was literally next to a radio transmitting tower:

    The fire up north in Simi Valley scorched the area I spent my early, formative years (Santa Susana) and part of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, the site of one of the US' biggest nuclear disasters.

    • And you can’t really see the guy wires from those towers. This was like parallel parking blindfolded in three dimensions. And, as someone earlier noted, the cockpit resource management between the two pilots was absolutely textbook. I would put this airmanship in the category of Al Haines and Sullenberger for professionalism, literally, under fire.

    • Joseph

      I’ve never heard of that nuclear disaster — and I’m pretty well versed in that stuff! What happened?