October 7, 2012
Contacts: Dan Thorpe (541) 621-4101
Dan Postrel (503) 881-3453
Cynthia Orlando (503) 510-7972
MEDFORD -- A helicopter contracted to the Oregon Department of Forestry made an emergency landing in a wooded area Sunday afternoon while returning to its Grants Pass base from a firefighting mission.
The pilot, the only person aboard, was not injured in the incident, which occurred 15 miles north of Medford at about 3:15 p.m.
“Safety is our absolute priority, and we’re very grateful that no one was hurt,” said Dan Postrel, the department’s public affairs director.
The helicopter, under contract from Columbia Basin Helicopters Inc., of Baker City, went down after supporting suppression of two small fires in the area.
Department employees were in immediate cell phone communication with the pilot, and reached the site on foot within 90 minutes of the incident. A bulldozer was dispatched to open up an unmaintained road to allow access to the site, on a forested slope.
Department officials said the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate.
The department provides fire protection on about 16 million acres of Oregon forestland. Aircraft are essential to putting fires out as rapidly as possible, and the agency currently has several water-dropping helicopters under contract.
Department officials also reminded the public Sunday that although fall has arrived, forests are extremely dry, and fire danger remains high. “We ask everyone to follow local fire restrictions, and to use utmost caution while visiting or working in the forests,” Postrel said.
# # #