Helicopter Crews Train In Ellensburg



Throughout most of the day, you could  hear helicopter blades chopping through the air, and crews shouting commands at one another.

Today wasn't a real emergency response, but those in the thick of the action treated it like it was.

"It's key for all of us to be able to interact with one another," said Spokane Air Support Pilot Rod Melzer, "There's going to be a day when we all come to some mass event, we need to be able to work together. Otherwise we'll be stifling our own efforts."

Agencies from Chelan, King, Snohomish, Kittitas and Spokane Counties have partnered up to form the Cascade Mountains Consortium, a group dedicated to strengthening the response efforts of helicopter crews.

The group was formed in response to the Taylor Bridge and Table Top Mountain fires last year.

Today ground and flight crews worked on search and rescue scenarios.

With 9 fully functional helicopters in the state, pilots say it's important that crews stay on the same page in order to hopefully prevent wildfires like last year that caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.

"We want to make sure that they're familiar with air crews and the equipment that we have so that they know what to ask for and how we operate," said Deputy Bill Quistorf from the Snohomish Sheriff's Office, "We're also doing some joint ground-training and in-flight training so that if we come over here, it's not brand new to them, they're familiar with it."

"I think if you ask most of the folks out here, they're out here because they want to try to help folks," said Melzer, "To be able to be in the air and to have some sort of impact on making a positive difference for the folks on the ground, that's why we all do it."