Watch: Hotshot Pilot Flies into Wildfire for Mountaintop Rescue


Devastating wildfires have been raging in California since mid-July, but especially in the past few weeks, resulting in dozens of lives lost, hundreds of residents unaccounted for and countless homes and businesses destroyed.

One of those wildfires has become known as the Woolsey Fire in southern California, and video obtained from the helmet cam of a helicopter pilot who conducted a daring rescue operation in the early days of that massive blaze has been released publicly as an example of the heroic actions being made on a daily basis by those fighting against the devastating wildfires.

The video began with the fire-fighting helicopter flying above hilly neighborhoods prior to making a drop of fire suppressant on a section of the fire that was threatening a group of buildings, successfully quenching that particular hot spot.

The pilot received an emergency radio call shortly thereafter which asked if the chopper could attempt to pick up some people stranded on a peak that had become encircled by the rapidly moving fire. The pilot immediately proceeded to the area to see if he could be of assistance.

The helicopter made a beeline for a massive plume of smoke rising above the peak in question, and upon arrival at the area, began to circle around and make an approach in the thick smoke, searching for a spot large enough for to touch down.

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The crew eventually spotted a complex of buildings, tall antennas and several vehicles stretched along a thin ridgeline.

The pilot initially attempted to maneuver the helicopter in between two of the large antenna to set down among several vehicles in a dirt parking lot, but unfortunately had to pull up and out of that area when it was revealed to be too tight to accommodate the aircraft.

The pilot proceeded to circle around once more and decided to land on a relatively flat spot on the ridge just off to the side of the building complex and antennas, though even with all of the obstacles no longer being an issue, the landing was still no easy feat.

Bear in mind that all the while this was going on, the helicopter was running low on fuel, flames could be seen rapidly encroaching on the area and thick smoke billowed all around, reducing visibility immensely. That search took about seven minutes, as the video recorded.

Do you hold firefighters and "hotshot" pilots in high regard for their immense bravery?

As soon as the helicopter touched down, the co-pilot jumped out to gather together and help load up the stranded people on the peak.

As the pilot held the craft steady and began to make plans to head to the nearest refueling station, the co-pilot soon returned with three people and two dogs, who were quickly loaded into the chopper, though one of the dogs — and English mastiff, no less — initially seemed a bit averse to coming on board.

Eventually, the co-pilot got back into the helicopter, hooked himself back in and said, “All right, let’s get the hell out of here,” to which the pilot replied, “Good job.”

Once all aboard were properly buckled in and the helicopter lifted off from the mountaintop, it became frighteningly obvious just how close the rapidly moving flames had approached toward where they had just been sitting.

“That’s enough excitement for me today,” said the co-pilot, prompting a chuckle and a “You and me both, brother,” from the pilot.

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They set out for the nearest refueling spot, only to learn that the refueling trucks had already moved on elsewhere. Luckily, they had enough fuel left to reach another refueling site, and the dramatic rescue operation was completed successfully.

Check it out here. The landing comes about the 7-minute mark. Takeoff comes at about the 10-minute mark.

This helicopter pilot learned that there were people trapped by the wildfire on an isolated mountain peak, and bravely placed himself, his crew and his craft at great risk to rescue them from near-certain doom.

Despite the incredible dangers of the fire and thick smoke, limited visibility, rapidly shifting wind directions and unexpected gusts, as well as a less-than-ideal landing zone, he nevertheless calmly displayed immense bravery and completed the heroic mission.

The incident proved yet again why we, as a country, hold “hotshot” pilots and firefighters in such high regard, even as they rarely receive the news coverage and praise their heroic deeds deserve.

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Ben Marquis is a writer who identifies as a constitutional conservative/libertarian. He has written about current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. His focus is on protecting the First and Second Amendments.
Ben Marquis has written on current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. He reads voraciously and writes about the news of the day from a conservative-libertarian perspective. He is an advocate for a more constitutional government and a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, which protects the rest of our natural rights. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, with the love of his life as well as four dogs and four cats.
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