Friday, February 29, 2008

Contest Entries...

Only two found the time to send me pictures... I am a little disappointed by this, I had hoped for a few to make the competition good. So below are the two sets of pictures sent... if you think you have something better, then don't hesitate and send your photo's and stories to our e-mail which is I will wait for another week prior to posting the voting poll!

Entry #1

A wonderful picture of a P-3 Orion... the story will follow when we post this picture during the contest in about a week...

Entry #2

The second entry is of a group of 5 photographs... I will post all of them as a group, and any one of them could cause this contestant to win the goods! Stories will follow...

Well there you have it... I am hoping that some others will join the competition... do you have a winning photo? E-mail us at

we'll be waiting... time is ticking... you have 7 days!

Good Luck...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A small shout out for the Shots!

I just thought it would be good to add some material from this past season... some of the high aclaim that many Southern Utah crews gained. This post is a "Kudos" to the Cedar City Hotshots for the lasting impression they left on the last roll of the season (2007)... great job guys!

Utah hotshots return from battling southern California fires

(ABC 4 News)
(ABC 4 News)
CEDAR CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - The Cedar City Hotshots of the U.S. Forest Service returned this weekend from Southern California. The 20-man crew was the first from Utah to be deployed to the wildfires and the last to come home.

As they geared out Friday at the Color Country Fire Commander Center, they talked about being part of one of the biggest and most complex firefighting operations in recent history.

The Cedar City Hotshots had never seen a fire like this. Few have. It wasn't just the number and size of the wildfires; there have been bigger. But there was so much more at risk in this fire. So many homes. So many evacuees.

Hotshot Kyle Betty said they were ready to go the moment they heard about the fire. "You see on TV people losing their homes. All that kind of gets to you. You want to go down there and help them out, do you job and get them back in their homes," he said. Fellow Hotshot Dan Stucki added, "You definitely feel that sense of urgency. You feel the honor of performing your duty more so than ever."

The first day they were put on the frontline of the Santiago Canyon fire. They worked into the night without air support on a back burn to protect homes on the hillside. But before they could tie in a critical section of line, the fire was upon them and they had to pull back.

It was a rough start to 14 days of hot, hard and dangerous firefighting. But these hotshots would have their share of victories and even receive a little recognition for those victories.

"We stopped at a gas station," said Lane Lamoreaux, "And this lady just came up and tried to shake everybody's hand and told us how much she appreciated us being out there. That kind of helps you get up the next morning because after you've been out there a few days you drag a little bit. But when you know that people appreciate you it gives you a second wind."

The Cedar City Hotshots won't be fighting any more fires this year. They're turning in their gear to be stored for the winter. But they will be back for training in the spring - ready to take on another fire season.

Zion Helitack supported this roll by sending crewmembers to the hotshots, whom were down personel due to end of season attrition... This is a common practice for Zion Helitack to support our fellow crew in Color Country, and it provides a wonderful way for crewmembers to gain a different perspective on the fireline...


Monday, February 18, 2008

You be the judge!...

So I was getting ready to add a couple of pictures and another commentary on the crew, when it hit me... I don't have to be the only one to add content and/or context to this Blog. After all the blog is for the crew and those who look upon it... So here is my idea! Whether a member of the crew or just an interested party... I want you to send me your best picture/pictures! Allow the picture to speak for itself, or add a story along with it... I will pick the best of the pictures/stories, and post them for everyone to judge... the picture/story that gets the best response will gain something... yet to be determined!

So here is how we make this happen... send your picture/pictures along with commentary/story to

I will screen for content that may not be appropriate, and then choose the top 3 entries. Those entries will then be posted for everyone to vote on... this will probably be done via a poll on the right side of the blog... again, this will be added once we are down to the top 3...

So don't hesitate, and e-mail me pictures and stories to be voted on! Remember, stories are nice... pictures are nicer... both combined are the best. The top choice will recieve something!! so be sure to leave your contact information (at least an e-mail) where you can be contacted... I will not post names or contact information on the blog!

I'll be waiting

Saturday, February 16, 2008

1st "Certificate" has closed!!

Let me start by apologizing to everyone... I have been gone doing some training in Las Vegas. I know what you are thinking, "must be tough to do a training in Las Vegas!"... actually it was a long week and I am looking forward to a long weekend in order to unwind.

I have recieved several calls from many of you that have applied, and are curious as to where we are in the process of hiring. I will return your calls by Wednesday of next week... but for now, know that the process is just begining. The 1st "certificate" has been pulled, and I now have that. We will begin the process of looking at the applications and determining whom we are interested in, and those that probably wont fit with our crew this season. We will narrow the application pool down to no more than 20-30. For those applicants we will begin a more in depth decision making process to find out if they are a fit for our crew and the current positions we are hiring. In the end it is a lot like "American Idol" in that we go through several screening process to reach the final in depth determiner... I expect we will narrow it down to around 8-12 people and for them they will recieve an opportunity to talk with someone from the crew and plead their case for being hired into one of only 2-4 slots that we have open.

Sounds like it will take a long time, however this usually doesn't take us but a week or two in order to obtain our final picks and start the hiring process for those individuals. So be patient, however don't hesitate to call if the anticipation of the process is too much. We will be glad to inform you where it is that you sit in the selection process.

I hope to be adding some more content to the Blog soon... so check back in a day or two.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

More Video... To Temp Your Tastebuds!

I made a video about 4 years ago that was a collection of clips that I had taken during my time in Central Utah. It was my first big stab at editing video... and there are some glitches here and there. I've uploaded the first 3 minutes of a 30 minute video... just to give you a tast. Hopefully the buffer rate is good enough that it won't play choppy (I know how anoying those types of videos are)...

Let me know how it played... if I need to save it in a smaller file I can surely do that. Comment on how you liked the video and whether you would like to see more of it or not... I'll take a lack of comments to mean you've seen enough!


Friday, February 8, 2008

How do we keep busy while not on fire?

Unlike engines that load up in the truck and head out to do project work, or hotshots that are constantly in travel status to the next big one... Helitack crews are strapped to a rather large piece of expensive equipment, that doesn't allow for getting off the base. So in order to not go crazy... waiting for the fire bell to ring, driving our adrenaline to attention,... Helitack finds things to do!The supervisor like to see crewmembers making certain that all the gear is ready to go. Brennecke is checking the edge on the saw chain, to ensure it will cut to his liking... this is a fairly common activity. But when you have checked everything over... well then you have to move on to the next activity

Yeah... we do some sitting around. Management always seems to keep busy doing something that keeps them from just chillin' and enjoying good conversation. However, as crewmembers on Helitack there is a fair amount of waiting that takes place. It is good when the crew isn't sick of one another and actually enjoys "hangin'"

After spending about as much time as we like with one another... perhaps a little siesta is in order. As Iceman likes to call it a "natural" is often just what you need in order to pass time. However, unless you have been running strong for day after day on Initial Attack, there just isn't much need for a lengthy nap.

Soooo... perhaps a good game of horse-shoes. Competition is usually light hearted, that is until management gets involved. It doesn't happen on a daily basis, not even on a weekly basis, but when management decides to get their game on the competition is fierce. A good game between Reid and Iceman is always good for drawing a crowd of spectators. It's a good way to wind down after a long day of standby...

In the end... we all signed on to fight fire! We would give up our day of keeping busy, for a fire call that takes us to the field. Most of the crew would much rather be up on the hill fighting fire than sitting at the helibase. This is probably the biggest misconception about Helitack, (at least Zion Helitack)... Most think or joke that it is all about L.C.E.S. for us, "Locate Cooler Establish Shade"... truth is, the days are longer and less rewarding when we are not out on the fire line... Any one of us would trade places with someone on the fire, any day of the week!

Well, keep busy... and we'll see you on the fire!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Mouse Trials of 2006!

We knew that there was a visitor to the trailer that year. The evidence left behind by his destruction seemed overwhelming. However, it wasn't until one afternoon when R.C. Martin (care of Yellowston Helitack on detail) was taking a "natural"... a natural as Ice likes to call them is the afternoon nap required by those of us whom are a little older and have lost a bit of our spunk... that the visitor was trapped and caught due to his own stupidity. The noise was coming from a nearby garbage can, and upon inspection of the small but annoying sound, R.C. discovered the MOUSE!
To some he was considered cute... but most of us realized the foul trail of destruction he had left in his little wake... Once again however, democracy found a place on the crew and for those that didn't want to see the demise that was surely looming over this mouses head... for those crewmembers, R.C. suggested a trial!

And so it began at 1400 on that summer day... a trial to decide whether the mouse, now named defendant, would lose his life for the crimes he had committed. Of course we made the crewmember that could not stand to see this happen, the Defense Attorney. It was up to Andrea to come up with an argument that would prove reasonable doubt... Others were all to quick to jump in and fill role of Prosecution. I am certain to this day that Doug just wanted to see that mouse die!!! And thus the trial began...

The Defense had a strong case... made even stronger by the weak showing of the prossecution.. and despite the obvious bias of the Judge (thats me), It was found that the mouse was not guilty by reason of obvious relatives within the trailer. My hands were tied, there was nothing more I could do but rule on the matter

At 1430... The mouse was set free!

The law around the Air Center was changed forevor on that day... as I am sure that the once named defendant, now free mouse... quickly returned to the shelter of the trailer to continue raising destruction with his little family of illegal occupants... So, as "Judge" and more importantly "Helitack Supervisor" I changed the law!

Have you met Soldier yet... well let me introduce you to the new law around the Air Center. Soldier was quickly recruited by myself, from a box outside Walmart in downtown Cedar City. She is a Mercenary! She now holds title of "Judge", "Jury", and "Executioner"! She calls the trailer home... and no stinking family of illegal occupants are going to bother her... she put an end to my headaches

Update: Once Soldier ran out of mice to trap, play with, and kill... she was on to whatever she could get her claws on. We started noticing lizards without tails, and tails without lizards... however this past summer it escalated to a more sporting apponent, birds. After the crew had cleaned up the 5th or 6th bird killing in the trailer (which is a major mess, blood and feathers everywhere) we decided that the trailer was no longer Soldiers home... she now lives outdoors like she was always meant too. That is until John Burke joined us at the Air Center... most days now, I see Soldier sitting in John's office. It looks like once again Soldier has gotten her way!

Happy Hunting Soldier

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

One of those days!

Have you every had one of "Those" days? The winter months are not the most exciting aroung the Helibase. I spend most of my days doing paperwork, answering phone calls, and watching the clock to see time pass by... tick... tick..... tick...... tick........ tock! When will this day ever end?

On occasion I field a phone call from a supervisor, or Regional representative, perhaps even from those that control the budget... and it puts me on edge. Honestly being full time in my job (year round) I ride a roller coaster... it's an up and down emotional ride... I can't wait for the season to begin, and then the seasonals show up... fire... fire... fire... and all of the sudden I can't wait for the seasonals to disappear. Once their gone and the air center is quiet... aahhhh!! Then one day, I don't know what triggers it, I get one of those phone calls and reality tells me, "I can't wait for the seasonals to show up again and the season to begin, because frankly I'm tired of dealing with the winter-time crap!"

It is the fire that keeps me at my job... not the money, not the glory (some may say "what glory") It is simply the oportunity I get to climb on that helicopter and fly into a good fire... In the end, I am excited about the job I do... and at the end of the day, as the sun sets, I sit back and say... aaahhhh!

Well, as a crewmember mentioned more than once this last year, "If you got 'em, smoke 'em"... I had one of those days today, however life is good and the seasonals will soon be arriving once again!

2,000,000 gallons pumped!

P3 - Orion
Taxi's in for a refill
Zion Helitack occupies space at the Cedar City Air Center, home to one of the busiest air tanker bases in the nation... In fact 2006 had the retardant guys pumping nearly 2 million gallons of retardant! At one time the Tanker Base was called home by 9 of the heavy air tankers that fight wildland fire, at the time this was over half of the fleet. 2006 was the best year on record for the base... in fact no other base in the country was as busy or pumped as much retardant

looking under its wing at the waiting fleet

These monster aircraft were originally built during WWII, and performed duties for the Navy and Air Force as submarine finders. They have been retrofitted to drop retardant on fast moving wildfires. Widely known as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, tanker pilots manuever these large aircraft to very low levels to release their heavy loads on the fires they fight.

The P-3 Orion is a 4 prop turbine that carries nearly 2500 gallons of retardant. It has a very sophisticated computer system on board that can open a series of doors on the bottom of the aircraft. This allows them to split loads into multiple drops. Or if desired they can stretch the length of a drop out further. It takes the guys at the tanker base approximately 10 minutes to park, load, and release the P3-Orion... Now thats fast!

The P2V is a twin prop reciprocating engine with dual jet assists. These engines are big and powerful, and nearly unchanged since their days of flying over the ocean in WWII... They are not jet turbines... however the P2V has two small jet engines mounted one on each wing. The jets help this airplane to get off the ground with a full load of retardant (appx 2000 gallons), and are again used to assist while the airplane is preparing for and pulling out of the drop. The P2V has a very distinct whine when it idles into the tanker base parking... like the call of a warrior coming home. I don't know about you, but just once I would like a ride in the nose cone during a drop... just once!

When the base is busy during the summer it is evidence of a war... When the Heavy Tankers roll in, we know that smoke is in the air... fire is on the ground... and a war is about to be waged between these heavy metal machines and their nemesis.... FIRE!


KC-135 Supertanker!

I realize that this is nothing to do with Helitack. It is however relevant to Zion Helitack. The Air Force often uses Cedar City for training. They make IFR (instrument flight reference) landings for practice. It is much easier to practice touch-n-go's at a non controled airport than at a controled airport. The KC-135 is a refueling aircraft, designed to refuel other aircraft in mid-flight. It is big and powerful and totally amazing to watch land with merely the distance of a football field between you and it's awesome power! Check out this video...

Kudo's to the men & women of the armed forces... and especially to the pilots of this aircraft from the Utah National Reserve unit based out of Hill Air Force Base! The squadron at Hill has been named one of the nations best!!!


Poll Closed...

What interests you most about Zion Helitack?.... You've voted!... and there were no hanging chads... 70% claimed they knew those on Zion Helitack and their reputations and wanted to be a part of that... 20% are looking for possible employment... 10% are drawn by the amount of fire in SouthWest Utah...

Thanks for taking the time to answer the poll... be looking for the next poll to be added soon.

What do you wish to know about... got a polling idea? Share it in the comments box at the bottom of this post...


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Worthy Of Debate? You Decide!

Post your comments below... I leave the debate to you!

Hello everyone... I thought the post tonight should be something that might spark a little debate. There has been a lack of comments made on the blog, and for whatever reason I am eager for the comments capability for the blog to be utilized. So in considering what I might discuss that would spark debate, I have reflected back on the past several seasons with Zion Helitack... hmmmm.... two topics come to mind.

Zion helitack has an SOP that has been established for the past several seasons, that has been the center of much consideration and thought on the crew. I need to clarify that this SOP will not be going away any time soon, the time for debate amongst the crew is over... and I don't see it changing... however, for those that follow the blog (to include the crew) here is the opportunity for your views to be heard, without fear of managment interference. If you are still cautious about commenting... do it anonymously :) The SOP is this: Crewmembers are allowed to consume alcohol, while on the road with the crew, under a couple of restrictions. 1st - Alcohol may only be had with dinner. 2nd - Crewmembers are not to linger beyond dinner in order to drink and socialize. 3rd - Crewmembers are not allowed to visit bars or establishments where drinking is the primary reason for being at that facility. 4th - Anyone who has consumed any amount of alcohol with dinner, may not drive the government vehicle. 5th - Finally, crewmembers should have ample rest, following their final alcoholic drink, before their next shift at work begins... So the jest is this... I have heard of "dry" crews that are not allowed any alcohol from the time they leave home base until they return back to home base. I have also heard of crews that hit the bar whenever possible on the road. Zion Helitack is in the middle of that road allowing for some alcohol, but under certain restrictions... What do you think? Should alcohol consumption be allowed while on the road for fire assignments?
comment below!!!

Okay... while you are chewing on your thoughts concerning drinking policies... think on this one.

The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management don't allow it... But the National Park Service requires it! Government Credit Cards!!! This has sparked more debate over the years than nearly any other topic on Zion Helitack... First, let me start by saying that the policy is set nationally... the policy as stated is not controlled at the local level by local management! If you become a member of Zion Helitack you will be required to obtain a Government credit card for travel purposes. Their are a lot of misconceptions concerning the card... does it hurt your personal credit "NO"... will you be allowed to default on the card by not paying it "YES"... Can you lose your employment with the government if you neglect the credit card regulations "QUITE POSSIBLY"... What are the Pro's and the Con's of every crewmember having a travel card? What do you think? Should seasonals be required to obtain a government travel card as a term of employment with the National Park Service?comment below!!!

Well there you have it... what do you think? Take the time to comment below by clicking on the comments link. Share your thoughts, and if so desired do it annonymously!

Until the next post

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Just a peek...

I was asked by a crewmember recently when they might get to see some of the awesome video footage that I captured this last season. I haven't had time to put together our season's video... however I thought it would be appreciated if I gave you a sneak peak at some of the dramatic uncut video...

What do you think?


Friday, February 1, 2008


Have you applied yet?
Time is ticking away... if you are interested in a position with Zion Helitack then don't delay. Get your application in immediately (only 6 days left). You can find the job announcement by going to and once there type the announcement number into the search block. The announcement number is NPS-FIRE-2008-013. Again, don't delay... time is almost out!

What you need to know!

The announcement doesn't close until April... this is misleading! If you don't have your application filled in by FEBRUARY 7th, 2008 you will not make the "cert" that we plan on pulling at that time.

A couple of things to keep in mind... (DISCLAIMER - these are general things, and should not keep you from applying if you have the desire to work in Zion. Additionally, this information only applies to those actually selected, good luck!) There is no government housing available. You will be stationed in Cedar City Utah, which is approximately an hour North West of the park. Fire is the primary activity that we engage in, however we do a lot of project work and support of search and rescue. It is standard that Zion Helitack Supervisors will not look at individuals who have no previous fire experience, unless there is a good reason to. It is not necessary to have any previous Helitack experience to apply, we will train you. Should you have any questions about the positions available, or the type of crew that Zion Helitack is... definately contact one of the supervisors and ask questions.

Inside Info... speaking from experience, if you want an honest shot at the job. Get your application in and follow up with a phone call to the Supervisor listed on the announcement. They will start looking at the applications of those who have shown true interest in being on the crew... a phone call will go a long way to getting your application looked at!

Good Luck!


Cargo Letdown...

Well, I am a firm believer in not counting on anything before it happens. I suppose my time with the government has taught me that. How many times have you endured the "hurry up" and "wait" that seems to accompany anything that is done in fire?

Zion Helitack has been chasing the thought of going rappel for a couple of seasons now... I am not saying that it will happen, however I got done talking to the RAM this week... he wants us to push for "Cargo Letdown" in 2008 season. With his backing, and a lot of training and hard work, I am sure that we will get to add this tool to the box!

Obvious next step... Rappel! It is sorely needed... just ask those who have helped us through the years... Boise Helitack, Garden Valley, Carribou-Targee, Price Valley, and others who have spent time in Color Country. Yes, and on occasion they have rappelled into our beautiful terrain. I am not looking to rob them of this experience in the future... but, in the future they can come to support us... rather than do the job for us.

I'll Keep you posted... nothing is done until it is done!