USFS Issues Report On Bucket Escape From Pole Creek Fire

Oct 25, 2012

A new report from the U.S. Forest Service gives new details on a daring helicopter rescue at Pole Creek Fire last month outside Sisters. That review describes how a firefighter escaped oncoming flames by climbing into a helicopter's empty water bucket.

An empty helicopter bucket served as a rescue vehicle for a firefighter during the Pole Creek Fire last month.
Credit Oregon Public Broadcasting

It almost sounds like a tall tale, doesn't it? But that's exactly why the Deschutes National Forest wanted to study the incident in what's called a Facilitated Learning Analysis.

"You know, the focus is on the bucket ride. But in fact, the bucket ride itself is in a way not the most important part of it," says Jerry Ingersoll.

Ingersoll lead the team that wrote the report.

"What you really have to do is go back to 'well how did they get into that situation?'"

In this case, the two men disagreed on whether an evacuation was needed. Eventually the firefighter deferred to the pilot. The report doesn't say who was right. Instead, it points out that crews on the ground usually have a better sense of fire behavior, while pilots are able to see things ground crews can't.

Ingersoll says these reports are intended to identify lessons other firefighters can take away, without assigning blame.

Copyright 2012 Oregon Public Broadcasting

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