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California wildfires: Dramatic footage shows helicopter rescue of firefighters surrounded by blazes

Pair had become trapped on ridgeline at Point Reyes National Seashore

Emily Goddard
Sunday 23 August 2020 15:42 BST
Dramatic helicopter rescue of firefighters trapped by California wildfire
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The dramatic rescue of two firefighters who had become trapped by deadly wildfires in California can be seen in footage that highlights the danger the blazes pose.

The Marin County Fire Department requested the urgent rescue of the firefighters who had become trapped on a ridgeline at Point Reyes National Seashore and were unable to make it out of the path of the advancing inferno at 8.15pm local time on Friday.

The helmet-cam footage, released by the Sonoma County sheriff’s office, shows the firefighters standing on the ridgeline and quickly kitting up to be hoisted to safety by helicopter.

As the aircraft ascends, the pair can be seen clinging onto a rope as the flames grow behind them.

“Had it not been for that helicopter, those firefighters would certainly have perished,” Mark Essick, the sheriff of Sonoma County, said.

The Sonoma sheriff’s helicopter Henry-1 responded to the emergency because it “is the only helicopter in the region capable of conducting a vertical reference long line rescue at night”, the sheriff’s office said.

In a post on social media, it added: “To complicate the situation further, the fire was creating strong, gusting winds that intensified as Henry 1 flew closer to the head of the fire.

“Henry 1 landed approximately a mile from the firefighter’s location and the tactical flight officer (TFO) configured the helicopter for long line rescue with a 100-foot long line.

“The TFO subsequently attached himself to the long line and was flown to the location of the firefighters.”

The firefighters were unharmed, but the footage shows that sometimes, “even first responders need a first responder”, the sheriff’s office said.

Over 14,000 firefighters are battling the wildfires that have burnt nearly 1 million acres of land.

At least six people have died, and tens of thousands have been evacuated.

Donald Trump has declared a major disaster and released federal aid.

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