Friday 20 September 2019

Helicopter pilots save terrified dogs and owner from US wildfires

An LAFD pilot balanced on a mountain ridge as civilians ran to escape the flames.

The LAFD helicopter balanced on the ridge as civilians ran to escape the flames (Credit: David Norquist LAFD/PA)
The LAFD helicopter balanced on the ridge as civilians ran to escape the flames (Credit: David Norquist LAFD/PA)

By Alastair Reid, Press Association

The Los Angeles Fire Department has released nerve-wracking footage of firefighters rescuing terrified dogs and their owners from the California wildfires by helicopter.

The death-defying video, taken from the helmet camera of one pilot on November 9, shows the helicopter venture into an enormous cloud of smoke, lit red and orange by flames in the Santa Monica mountains.

“This is rapidly becoming very ugly,” said pilot David Nordquist as they approach the rescue site on top of a ridge, a cluster of buildings and radio towers just visible through the smog and ash.

“Yeah, this isn’t looking good,” agreed co-pilot Joel Smith, as they try to figure out how to land amid the bushes, cars, and buildings.

Executing an inch-perfect landing by balancing on the peak of the ridge, Smith runs to fetch the people as the flames draw nearer and Nordquist holds the chopper in place.

The civilians eventually emerge with their two large dogs, terrified by the fire and the roar of the helicopter blades.

While the first hops aboard with relative ease, the second, an English mastiff, cowers in the bushes, refusing to budge.

“He’s a little apprehensive but we’re getting him on board,” says Nordquist as the dog’s owner pleads with his pet.

After a little coaxing and a lot of heavy lifting everyone is back aboard the helicopter which Nordquist lifts into the sky, revealing just how close the fire below had come to tragedy.

“That was close,” says Smith as they fly away.

One YouTube user wrote: “Just watched the whole thing; amazing video; a perspective that the general public never gets to see. VERY difficult landing, but they pulled it off.”

“Two cool cucumbers – calm and focused. Amazing job!” said another.

“Their professionalism, technical expertise and complete dedication to their mission was directly responsible for saving the lives of three people and two dogs,” said LAFD spokeswoman Margaret Stewart.

PA Media

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