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Firefighters train for helicopter rescues

It was training day for Cal Fire in the parking lot of the Westfield Mall in Palm Desert. Firefighters learned how to use one of many live-saving rescue helicopters.

“The helicopter is never a plan A, it’s a plan B, it’s a very dangerous machine,” said Bryan White, battalion chief for Cal Fire. “We never rely on it as the primary source of rescue but sometimes patients find themselves in a predicament where we have no other choice.”

Firefighters were trained how to use the hoist harness that carries an injured person to the helicopter.

“As you’ve seen quite often we use it on our bump and grind trails,” said White, “and the hiking trails here in the Coachella Valley.”

The helicopter is used in many situations such as during the intense rain storms on Valentine’s Day, crews rescued two people trapped in their car. It was also used just recently to rescue a hiker from a remote and hard to reach area in Mecca.

“My husband and I hike as well,” said Sarah Trawick, a La Quinta resident. “So it’s nice to know that they’re out here practicing in case we need them or anyone else that’s up there and needs their help.”

The training allowed firefighters who might not usually use the equipment to gain experience in case of an emergency situation.

“So it’s becoming more and more frequent,” said White. “So a lot of these rescues can be avoided and that’s kinda what we’re hoping from the public, make sure you’re prepared for the task at hand. You’re prepared for the weather, you have an appropriate amount of drinking water.”

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