Forest fires throughout the U.S. can be initially attacked from the air. Until recently, smokejumpers would jump to a safe area near the fire and hike to it. Another way is have two firefighters rappel down long lines from a hovering helicopter to the ground near the fire.. And, the rappel crews are also used for large fire support, hazard incidents and other operations on the forest service, according to Tod McKay of the Bitterroot National Forest.

But, the rappellers need training. So, 62 veteran rappellers, with two helicopters, will be coming to the Bitterroot Valley this month. The training will be at the Ruffatto Ranch on Bass Creek Road near the Bass Creek Recreation Area. The helicopters and crews are arriving this week, with further training May 27-29.

Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor said, in a news release, "We are taking steps to minimize all risk of exposure in order to keep our wildland firefighters and communities safe. Rappellers provide a vital service as wildland firefighters trained and prepared to operate in helibase operations and as aerially delivered firefighters."

Tod McKay of the Bitterroot Forest noted the training includes leadership, teamwork and communication exercises and rappellers and spotters will use the National Rappel Operations Guide for instructions. The aircraft will be operating between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the training days this week and again at the end of the month.

Those using the Bass Creek Recreation Area will hear the helicopters, but no closures are expected. If you need more information, call the Stevensville Ranger District at 406 777-5461.

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