In an annual report issued in mid-August, San Bernardino County Fire Department stated that its trial helicopter rescue programme has been proving a success. The trial, a joint operation between the Fire Department and the county’s Sheriff Air Rescue unit, began in December 2013. The Sheriff’s Department provides two helicopters, a pilot and crew chief/emergency medical technician, while the Fire Department supplies a captain and firefighter (both qualified paramedics) to make up the crew. The venture is staffed 10 hours per day, four days a week.
The aircraft offer a combined rescue, medical transport and firefighting capability, being outfitted with hoists, extrication equipment, advanced life support equipment including cardiac monitors, and fire suppression gear including underslung water buckets and fixed tanks.
The Fire Department’s report comments: “In the seven months that this trial programme has been underway, Air Rescue has positively impacted a number of lives throughout the County. From victims of car accidents between Barstow and Needles, to injured hikers in the back-country of the San Bernardino National Forest. The outstanding partnership between the Sheriff and Fire Department’s Air Rescue Program has significantly decreased the time citizens and visitors to our county previously experienced in their need to receive lifesaving medical treatment and services.”
Eric Sherwin, a Fire Department representative and paramedic, told local news outlet Desert Dispatch that the multi-mission capability of the aircraft is one of the primary advantages of the programme. He commented that the service covers highway areas that it would take ground ambulances two hours to reach in the event of an accident.
The Fire Department is set to present the results of the trial to the Board of Supervisors before the end of this year. If approved, the programme could continue, with a potential for an upgraded and expanded fleet.