Friday, January 23, 2009

Fitness Standards

The history of Zion Helitack is rather short in comparison to many outstanding programs that have been in existance for a lot longer. It takes several years for a program to evolve, and grow into something worthwhile. Often times there are set backs in the forward progression of a crew, as management moves on or attrition happens in key crewmember positions. In time, and with the proper direction and effort by management, a program finds its niche and a voice. By this I mean that a good program is well established in it's capabilities, it finds a niche amongst a sea of many programs filling many roles within our wildland fire community. It also finds a voice, it speaks to a certain type of firefighters. When talking about Helitack, most understand that there are many roles that a crew can fulfill in support of wildland fire. Some crews specialize in large helibase support. This takes a certain type of individual to be able to fulfill the needs of running a large helibase efficiently and safely without losing your mind or becoming complacent during, what can be, long hours of being idle. In a similar fashion, some crews are excellent Initial Attack crews. They spend their days also waiting and training for the moment the fire call comes. These days can often times be tough on the moral, and despite best efforts to remain alert and ready, most crews struggle with not letting their gaurd down... but when that fire call comes, these crews are quick to respond and typically ready for the fast paced action of Initial Attack. There are still yet many crews that specialize in other aspects of aviation support, and many crews that are at home doing a combination of many things. The point being that there are many crews, all called Helitack, which have varied missions and different focuses. If you are looking to join a Helitack crew, or perhaps have been a crewmember for some time, you need to know that each crew has a personality and a focus. It is important to know that not all crews are alike in what they do or the roles they play.

Zion Helitack is proud to be a contributer to the various roles that a Helitack crew provides. We spend hours each year providing support on Helibases, prescribed fire, doing aerial ignition, search and rescue, resource management projects, GIS missions, and many other aspects of aerial support in wildland fire. However, in the end we are an exclusive use Initial Attack crew! We spend most of our time preparing for and executing Initial Attack of small fires within and around our coverage area. In order to be good at what we do, the members of Zion Helitack realize that two things are essential. They must be in great physical condition, and they must keep their minds sharp and attention focused.

So what are the expectations for crewmembers on Zion Helitack? In order to be hired into a crewmember position, applicants need at least some experience on wildland fires. They need to have their basic training as a FFT2 completed. This typically occures within a single season of fighting fire on an engine or with a squad / hand crew. Interested firefighters do not have to be helicopter crewmembers. We will put our "rookies" through initial HECM training. Applicants that are excepted need to be able to and achieve successful completion of the "Work Capacity Test" at the arduous level. Commonly known as the "Pack Test". Pass a physical and possible drug testing and you have completed all the requirements for being on the crew... On Zion Helitack, as with other crews, we strive for more than just these basics...

Initial Attack Standards for Zion Helitack are as follows:

Physical Standards - 1.5 mile run in 11:00 minutes or less / 45 sit ups in one minute / 25 push ups in one minute / 7 pull ups done consecutively / 85 pound pack out 3 miles over level terrain in 90 minutes or less / successful completion of the WCT at the arduous level.
Additional Standards - crewmembers must commit to memory the "10 Standard Firefighting Orders" and recite any given order upon request from management.

We take very seriously our ability to attack wildfires in a quick and efficient manner. We are often landing on fires in some of the most rugged and unforgiveable country in Southern Utah. We are committed to everyone coming home safely and uninjured. This can only be accomplished if our crewmembers are in the peak of their physical condition and are trained well in tactics that will keep them safe on the fire line. We do not make our Initial Attack Standards part of the hiring criteria, however we do give preference of who gets what assignment to those that meet the Initial Attack Standards. This simply means that if you fail to achieve the high standards as stated above, and others on the crew do... you may find yourself driving the chase vehicles more often than you find yourself flying on I.A. It may seem like a harsh judgement to make, but in the end these standards are set to keep our crew safe and free from injury. We expect 110% of our crewmembers! For those that achieve such, we reward them highly with opportunities, growth, and shared achievements that are often recognized not only by Zion Helitack Management but many others outside of the crew.

A closing note: I hope that those looking for a position with Zion Helitack this year, have had the opportunity to submit an application to USAJOBS! I am unsure of the openings that will be available at this time, but hope to start our hiring process within the next few weeks. If you have questions about the crew or the hiring process don't hesitate to call Zion Helitack Management (435/865/4640). If you have not yet submitted an application, it is most likely too late for this season. We typically accept our new "rookies" from the group of applicants who get their resume's online before the first cut-off date. That date was January 20th. Please feel free to give us a call and discuss next years opportunities, if you missed this cut-off date, but there are few possibilities for us to accept applications for the 2009 fire season after this date has passed. To everyone else who has applied and are hopeful for a position, my recommendation would be to start your physical training program now... Should you be given a position with our crew, we will expect you to be in top physical condition.



Anonymous said...

85 pound pack in 90 minutes over what distance?

M.L. said...

85 pound pack out for 3 miles over level terrain in 90 minutes or less. Thanks for catching that mistake - M.L.

Anonymous said...

Do you guys rappel? What's in the packout bag?

M.L. said...

We are not currently rappel. We are Cargo Let Down, and if all goes well will be rappel in 2010. The standard stuff in the packout bag may include the following; chainsaw, tools, line packs, campout gear, (once we go rappel) ropes, rappel gear, flight helmet, and anything else we had sent to us on the line...