Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Heavy-lift choppers recruited

Technicians train for flood rescues

  • Print

IT'S a tool rescuers hope they won't have to use during this spring's flood, but one they're happy to have at their disposal.

This week, the province is training a team of rescue technicians who will be able to swoop down in a basket lowered from a helicopter to reach stranded people.

Flood Fight

In the past, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, which handles rescues, has used helicopters to spot stranded people as well as to direct rescues -- including during the flooding at Breezy Point in 2009. But until this year, provincial rescuers haven't had the equipment or training to swoop down with a heavy-lift helicopter and transport someone to dry ground.

"It's exactly the same type of rescue that you'll see with Coast Guard applications," Chris Jones, the province's fire commissioner, said Thursday.

The province has several privately owned helicopters at its disposal in case of an emergency. The choppers involved in rescues will have a pilot, co-pilot, two spotters and a rescue technician, who will be deployed in the basket, Jones said.

Rescuers have already identified spots along the Red River that can be used as staging areas for the whirlybirds. The same goes for western Manitoba, where severe flooding is also predicted along the Assiniboine River.

Helicopters with specially trained technicians and proper equipment will be on call at both Winnipeg and Brandon. The province is also looking into whether a third chopper will be needed along the border with Saskatchewan.

"We've got a whole deployment communication response plan that we've developed," said Jones. "It runs very quickly. In the event... someone needs help, it's a very, very quick response."

Of the eight rescue technicians being trained, four are with the provincial Office of the Fire Commissioner and four are from the Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service.

The new chopper rescue system can also be used in other situations, Jones said. "If a hiker has fallen and they're not in good shape, it's a lot easier to utilize this piece of equipment than put them on the back of a quad and try and bounce them out of the bush."

The rescue choppers will be used in tandem with a special helicopter ambulance the province is leasing from Alberta throughout the flood period, just as it did in 2009.

Potentially, rescuers will lift someone out of harm's way and then give way to the medical chopper -- if a person is hurt and needs to be transported to hospital quickly, Jones said.

Health Minister Theresa Oswald said the province is continuing to develop plans for a permanent provincial helicopter ambulance. She said it could be put in place as early as this year.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 25, 2011 A4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Poll

Would you visit Dalnavert Museum if it reopened?

View Results