SALMON, Idaho (KIFI) - Some of the best firefighters in the country came to train with the Heli-Rappellers in the Salmon-Challis National Forest this May.
Once they learn the ropes, they one day may drop into remote areas and quench the blaze before it spreads.
“It's constantly challenging. Every day's a new day. Every fire is completely different from the last, even if truly it's all the same," firefighter and heli-rappeller Amanda Johnson said. "I really enjoy the unique challenge that it presents.”
By the end of the week, 72 rookie rappellers from Idaho, Utah, Montana and Oregon will know the ins and outs of remote rappelling.
“Here, we're focused on the actual procedure of repelling so that do delivery method of firefighters," California helicopter operations specialist Casey Jones said. "Which is heavy focus on learning the procedure so that when they go back to their home base we're all interchangeable. Working on the same operations.
Students at Salmon Air Base work in helicopter simulations, classroom mock-ups, and high tower rappelling before they try out the real thing.
Even the bravest of the brave can be left shaking in their boots.
“My first day on the tower, I almost crawled the fear of heights is very real. And the towers actually kind of have a little bit of sway up top, especially in some high wind. But repellers on the tower are learning how to transition and essentially put the whole picture together of what they've learned on the ground simulations,” Johnson said.
Forest firefighters can rappel up to three hundred feet depending on the timberline.
They say, when you're isolated, alone, and suspended above a raging fire this training comes in handy.
“This procedure is what saves you. This procedure is what's it's over in your mind. Everything else turns off, and you just know, this is what I'm supposed to do when I'm giving this signal and this is how it's going to go. Every single time," Johnson said.