Two California firefighters who were left stranded by a Bay Area wildfire that was closing in on them were rescued by helicopter in a daring nighttime mission that was caught on film.
Marin County Fire Department officials needed help extricating two of their men from an area surrounded by the Woodward Fire near Point Reyes National Seashore on Friday night.
At around 8:15pm, MCFD radioed a request for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office to deploy its rescue helicopter, the ‘Henry-1’, to the area so that the two stranded firemen could be extricated.
Sonoma officials said the ‘Henry-1’ is the only helicopter capable of conducting a long line rescue at night.
Long line rescues are those done when a synthetic line measuring some 100ft is attached to a helicopter so that it can transport a rescuer and a subject in and out of steep, forested, and mountainous terrain.
In the video, the two stranded firefighters are spotted approximately 75 yards from the advancing wildfire.
But the rescue was made even more difficult by strong wind gusts whipped up by the blaze.
So the helicopter landed about a mile from where the firefighters were spotted.
A Sonoma County tactical flight officer attached himself to a 100ft long line and gave the signal to the helicopter pilot to fly to the area where the stranded firefighters were located.
The video, which appears to have been shot from a camera mounted on the tactical flight officer’s helmet, shows the officer attach himself to the long line as the chopper begins to fly the final leg of the rescue mission.
The officer is seen airborne as he looks out toward the horizon, where the sun has just set.
To the south, the Woodward Fire is seen as it closes in on the area where the firefighters were stranded.
After about a two-and-a-half minute flight, the tactical officer spots the two firemen and begins to signal to the helicopter pilot to lower the aircraft in a direction that would enable him to rescue them.
The helicopter then hovers over the firemen and the tactical officer is able to meet them on the ground.
‘Alright, guys, I’m going to get you out of here, OK?’ the officer is heard telling the firefighters.
The tactical officer then instructs one of the firefighters to put on a red rescue vest.
The officer and the two firefighters are then hooked up to the long line. Moments later, the helicopter begins to fly away from the scene as the three are extricated from the area.
One of the rescued firefighters tells the officer: ‘Thank you for coming.’
To which the officer replied: ‘F*** yeah, man. Anything for you guys.’
After some two-and-a-half minutes, the two firefighters and the tactical officer are put down on the ground safe and sound.
The video ends with the officer breathing a sigh of relief and hugging the two firemen.
Meanwhile, a huge California wildfire has grown to become the second largest in the state’s history as 14,000 firefighters battle more than 500 blazes that have scorched one million acres and killed at least six.
The LNU Lightning Complex Fire has now spread across a staggering 314,000 acres wiping out any homes, trees and entire neighborhoods that cross its path.
The blaze that began in the popular wine region of Napa County has now consumed four other counties including Sonoma, Lake, Yolo and Stanislaus destroying 560 structures and damaging another 125.
Officials warned Saturday it is now the second-biggest fire California has ever seen – a marked change from less than 24 hours earlier when it was the tenth-largest in recent history.
‘This entire LNU Complex is now the second-largest wildland fire in state history,’ said Sean Kavanaugh, incident commander with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
President Trump issued a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration Saturday to boost the state’s emergency response to the wildfires, after Governor Gavin Newsom pleaded with the president to grant the declarations Friday.
The National Guard has also been activated and is ready to send in helicopters and 240 crew members to help the embattled fire crews that have got the blaze only 15 percent contained.
The LNU overtook the SCU Lightning Complex as the biggest fire Saturday, despite officials doubling the number of fire crew to 1,000 drafted in to fight the LNU Friday in desperate efforts to bring it under control.
The SCU fire has now burned around 292,000 acres, making it the third-largest fire in state history.
The largest wildfire California has ever seen was the Mendocino Complex that burned more than 459,000 acres back in 2018.
Fears are growing that the LNU and SCU are edging closer to its record after they surged from being the respective 10th-largest and seventh-largest fires the state has ever seen just one day before.
More than 13,700 firefighters have now been drafted in to try to bring the ever-increasing fires under control across the state, with around 2,600 tackling the two biggest blazes alone.
Two firefighters with the Marin County Fire Department had to be rescued after becoming trapped while battling a blaze Friday.
As of Saturday, the Golden State is under the grip of more than 585 wildfires – including almost two dozen major fires – which have scorched almost one million acres.
The blazes are accelerating along the path of destruction, after officials counted 771,000 acres destroyed Friday – an expanse bigger than the whole state of Rhode Island.
At least six people have now been killed by the wildfires, with the mammoth LNU Complex fire claiming at least four lives.
Three victims were found inside a burned down home in Napa County Wednesday where, just over a week ago, people were enjoying vineyards in the famed wine country.
Its fourth victim was in Solano County, Cal Fire confirmed.
Another person – a utility crewman – died Wednesday while he was helping clear electrical hazards for first responders at the same fire.
This came after a firefighter helicopter pilot was killed in a crash at the Hills Fire in Fresno County earlier that day when trying to drop water onto the inferno below.
Gov. Newsom announced Saturday Trump had approved his request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to help the state’s emergency response to tackling the wildfires.
It means federal aid will be available for the emergency response and recovery efforts including crisis counseling, housing and unemployment assistance and legal services for those displaced by the fires.
The move from the White House came just days after Trump appeared to blame the citizens of California for the fires telling them ‘you’ve got to clean your floors’ and saying he would ‘make them pay for it’.
‘I see again, the forest fires are starting. They’re starting again in California. And I said, “You’ve got to clean your floors. You’ve got to clean your floors,”‘ the president said at an event in Pennsylvania Thursday.
Trump blamed ‘years’ of leaves and broken trees saying ‘they’re like, like so flammable.’
‘Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it, because they don’t listen to us. We say you got to get rid of the leaves,’ he added.
Trump appeared to backtrack on his harsh words and approved the declaration Saturday after Newsom asked for federal aid.
Newsom admitted Friday that California is ‘putting everything we have’ into tackling the wildfires but it has not been enough to halt them in their tracks.
‘We are not naive by any stretch about how deadly this moment is and why it is essential… that you heed evacuation orders and that you take them seriously,’ Newsom said.
‘We simply haven’t seen anything like this in many, many years.’
The governor issued an SOS call to other leaders and nations to help save the Golden State from the blazes.
Ten states, including Oregon, New Mexico and Texas, have pledged to send in fire crews and Newsom is also pleading with Canada and Australia for help where he said they have ‘the world’s best firefighters.’
Experts are warning that the worst is yet to come as forecasts show more lightning strikes headed for the state over the coming days.
Dry thunderstorms with lightning and gusty winds have been forecast for Sunday – something the state only experiences around every 15 years.
‘With severe drought and exceptionally dry fuels present, dry thunderstorms could spark additional wildfires this weekend,’ the National Weather Service said.
‘The western US and Great Plains are shrouded under a vast area of smoke due to ongoing wildfires that extend from the Rockies to the West Coast.’
Cal Fire reinforced these concerns tweeting that more lightning is expected into Tuesday and encouraging all residents to have an emergency evacuation plan.
Many of the fires were sparked by an abnormally high number of lightning strikes last weekend while the state is in the midst of a heatwave.