Helicopters are used for firefighter and cargo transport, water or retardant application, fire reconnaissance, aerial ignition operations, search and rescue, law enforcement missions, short-haul, sling loads, and seeding.
Type 1 Helicopters
Type 1 helicopters are the largest, fastest flying and the most expensive helicopters used on wildland fires. They can typically carry 700 gallons of water or retardant via a bucket or a snorkel that fills an internal tank. These helicopters can strategically drop thousands of gallons of water or retardant with pinpoint accuracy, while working closely with ground personnel and other firefighting aircraft.
Helicopters refill their buckets at dip sites such as public lakes, reservoirs, or any water sources that are deep enough for the buckets. Tanked helicopters with snorkel capabilities can draft from open water sources. Helicopters with buckets can pull water from water sources that are deep enough for the buckets.
Some Type 1 helicopters can also transport up to 15 personnel to an incident. Others are only used to drop water or fire retardant, or move firefighting supplies and equipment.
Type 2 Helicopters
Type 2 helicopters are very effective initial attack resources. They can transport up to nine firefighters at one time. These helicopters can support firefighters on the ground by delivering up to 300 gallons of water to the fireline in a bucket or tank.
Type 3 Helicopters
Although Type 3 helicopters are smaller, they have a higher cruise speed than a typical Type 2 helicopter and can arrive on the scene of an initial attack wildfire faster. They are capable of carrying four to five firefighters at a time, and use a 180 gallon water bucket.