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LAFD Helicopter Crews: Making a Difference Every Day

Saturday, January 20, 2007 |

Saturday, January 20, 2007 was a busy day for the men and women of the Los Angeles Fire Department, including those assigned to LAFD Air Operations, who handled a trio of air ambulance runs in little more than ninety minutes. Earlier in the day, they had been part of a high-rise structure fire assignment in the Miracle Mile. To them, it was a day like many others...

At 1:22 PM, ground- and helicopter-based Los Angeles Firefighters responded to the rugged urban wildlands of Topanga State Park, where a 35 year-old male had reportedly fallen from a rope swing near a popular waterfall. Witnesses had at first attempted to carry or assist the man to medical care, but with a fractured right tibia and fibula (the lower leg bones), his pain and skeletal deformity precluded their effort. Spotted by the smaller of two LAFD helicopters serving the combined role of reconnaissance, command support and safety observation, the would-be rescuers quickly acceded care to the ground-based crews and later Flight Paramedics who smoothly hoisted the man aboard the quad-rotored air ambulance for the six minute flight to the UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, shaving more than 40 minutes - and a great deal of pain, from a typical ground transport to the world-renowned facility.

At 2:05 PM, Los Angeles County Lifeguards summoned LAFD assistance near the popular Gladstone's Malibu Restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades, where they had discovered a 38 year-old local woman and non-patron of the restaurant, who had fallen approximately 10' feet onto some riprap at the Pacific shore. Ground-based LAFD Firefighter/Paramedics worked together with the Lifeguards to medically stabilize the woman, who had sustained significant head trauma in her fall against the sharp rocks. With an altered level of consciousness and in steep decline, the next available LAFD Air Ambulance was summoned. As LAFD Paramedics and Lifeguards completed the woman's extrication, wound care and stabilization, she was placed into the cargo area of a Lifeguard patrol vehicle for the short ride southward to the parking lot of a beach club, where Firefighters had secured a landing zone, and the LAFD Helicopter waited to 'hot load' the critically injured patient for her six minute flight to the Trauma Center at UCLA Medical Center in Westwood.

At 3:00 PM, the LAFD Air Ambulance crew from the earlier waterfall rescue was requested at the scene of a traffic collision in the 20800 block of Ventura Boulevard, in Woodland Hills, where a seven year-old boy properly secured in the rear of his grandparents sedan was critically injured when their car was impacted severely by another motorist. The Paramedic-staffed Engine Company from the Neighborhood Fire Station had arrived quickly on the scene, and as the veteran Firefighter/Paramedic began his assessment, he turned to his Captain and matter-of-factly asked for an Air Ambulance. Were it not for the message conveyed solely by eye contact between the men, a bystander might have thought little of the request - but both men in an instant knew the clock was ticking. Earning the confidence of the boy, the Paramedic-trained Firefighter looked beyond the obvious injuries to find the boy guarding his abdominal region. Soon, his clean yet calloused fingers were gently reaffirming his worst suspicion: an increasingly rigid abdomen indicative of internal bleeding. The boy needed a pediatric critical care center, yet in what is often a surprise to Los Angeles residents, there is no such medical facility in the 243 square-mile San Fernando Valley. The nearest such hospital by ground was UCLA, but even then a potentially 45-minute drive. Then again, that hospital had just taken a barrage of critical patients. The next option? Children's Hospital of Los Angeles in distant Hollywood, an ambulance trip that could take nearly an hour. An hour this boy didn't have. Not to worry, the Captain told the grandparents, "We're going to make sure your grandson gets the best possible care right away". It wasn't long after his calm reassurance that the roar of the LAFD Bell 412 helicopter was heard overhead, as the boy and grandmother were loaded into an LAFD ambulance for the short trip to a nearby athletic field for their safe transfer to the helicopter, which in seven short minutes, would have them in the world-class care of pediatric physicians.

The men and women of the LAFD are proud to have these helicopters and their crews available to serve residents of Los Angeles around-the-clock on a moments notice. We are both blessed and grateful that our City's elected leaders understand the importance of our multi-role air fleet and staff, and that every member of our Department from our Firefighter/Dispatchers to our Chief Officers, are well-versed in their abilities.

Most of all, we are grateful for the tremendous support of the people of Los Angeles, who insist we always have the tools and training necessary to make the magic happen.

When you see the familiar red and white Los Angeles Fire Department helicopters flying overhead, don't hesitate to wave. While you might not be able to see us wave back, you're certain to bring a smile to the crews that are making a difference in our community each and every day.


Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

We have the best fire department in the world. Thank you for all that you do.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes when I wave to firefighters driving by in fire trucks, none of the firefighters wave back. Other times, I've waved to firefighters driving by in fire trucks with lights and sirens on... and, the firefighter in the passenger seat waves back at me.

Anonymous said...

I agree, we have a wonderful, skilled team of fire and rescue personnel. I was there at the waterfall where the man broke his leg (it was an obvious tib/fib fracture with intact circulation to his foot, and no other injuries). He was carried out by a team of good samaritan hikers who were met by the paramedics with less than 1/2mile of trail still to go. I commend these strong hikers who sacrificed the health of their own backs to carry this man out. I was, however, much disturbed by the inability of the hikers to realize that the situation was not as big of an emergency as their panic made it seem. The man was in a great deal of pain, which their panic only intensified as they tried to quickly get him out of the canyon. That panic is what led 2 helicopters and 9 vehicles of paramedics/firefighters to arrive to aid in his rescue. I cringe to think of the tens of thousands of dollars that were spent on this man's rescue. Had the hikers taken a step back and evaluated the situation before a frantic call to 911 summoned this unnecessary response, they would have realized that the final outcome (his arrival at an emergency department) could have been achieved with much less stress, pain and fanfare. I just hope that if I'm ever unlucky enough to find myself in the same situation, there will be nice people around to aid me to get out of the canyon, and then drive me to an emergency department -- thus not wasting the time and valuable resources of our 911 system. Save those highly trained individuals for the real emergencies! Thank goodness the crews were not still tied up with this patient when the other apparently real emergencies occurred. As an emergency department employee for the past 3 years, I see this misuse of the 911 system all too often. Cost containment in healthcare is also the job of those who utilize health services. It is our job as a society to educate ourselves about the appropriate use of the 911 system. Be thankful you all live in a place where we have such a skilled and advanced system, but also please remember to save the resources for those who need them -- it could be you someday.

Anonymous said...

excellent article. not to mention, the LAFD are the only fire helicopters around who fly at night.

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Dear witness,

Thanks for sharing your knowledgeable and thought-provoking first-person account of what transpired. Though saddened to see the man in pain, we were pleased to know that he was not as seriously injured as some whom we are called to care for at the Topanga State Park.

Thanks for your work in the emergency department, and for your kind words regarding our endeavors.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for your kind words regarding the article.

Though the Firefighter/Pilots of the LAFD have a long-standing tradition of being an around-the-clock resource (made famous to many by the wildly popular 'We Own The Night' T-Shirts), my pilot friends tell me that the lack of some agency's perceived willingness to fly at night is often a matter of staffing and terrain and not pilot skill.

That much said, there are a few fire agencies in our region that now also fly at night.

Repectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Anonymous said...

Again we show what a great department LA has.Despite some bad press from some,this is a world class department so far ahead of others.The staffing of a EMS resources in all stations(even boats) makes LAFD the best in the world.

Raul

rpmoreno@cbs.com

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anne and Raul,

Thank you for your kind words, they mean more than you know.

For more than 120 years, the men and women of the LAFD have placed the needs - and when necessary the lives - of others ahead of their own.

Perfection, like life itself, is not a destination but rather a journey. We believe your long-term confidence in our agency and its members is well placed, and pledge to do whatever it takes to remain worthy of your respect and praise.


Repectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Scott said...

Outstanding job Brian! Excellent article, it is always a pleasure working with you on incidents! Look forward to the next time we talk.

Scott La Rue
Batt 18 "C"

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Thank You Sir! The pleasure is always mine.

Ron and I hope soon to feature more content about the day-to-day endeavors of the men and women of Battalion 18.

Fraternally Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Anonymous said...

You really capture the moments....

Buck said...

Brian,

Why not say who the other agencies are?

While I know that you do an excellent job in the PR department, you could also give credit by name to them.

If I recall LA County Fire may have the largest fleet of helicopters within the California fire service, which may also be the only fire agency using the "blackhawk" platform identified as a "firehawk".

A little humility and honesty never hurts.

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Buck:

Thanks for the note. I'm sorry if I came across to you as less than humble, and I certainly hope that I'm not seen by anyone as being anything but honest.

If your comment is in regard to the other agencies in our region (usually seen as a five county area) also flying helicopters at night, the truth is that I'm not really sure who they all are!

Rather than mistakenly leave an agency off of a list (such as peripheral county Law and Fire helos and the many private air ambulance firms using helicopters), I merely chose to affirm that they do exist in plurality.

To be honest, researching and then publishing a comprehensive list in this comments section never crossed my mind.

Please know that my reply was in essence stating 'night flying' to be largely a non-issue, and I'm genuinely sorry if anyone took offense at my failure to mention any one allied agency (and their fleet) in detail.

Kindly know that I, like so many of my LAFD Brothers and Sisters, treasure both a personal and professional relationship with members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Were I to be writing an entire article about regional helicopters rather than one focused on a single Saturday afternoon at the LAFD, I would be certain to mention the LACoFD and other agencies in detail.

That wasn't the case.

Buck, the Assistant Chief in charge of LACoFD Air Operations is a long-time personal friend who no more than a few days ago spent hours sitting in my office. I know many of the LACoFD pilots and mechanics by name. They won't be taking umbrage at the article above, and I hope in retrospect and with my explanation, you will be able to do the same.

In closing, the LAFD will be opening a new Air Operations facility at Van Nuys Airport later this year. I hope that you will keep an eye on the blog for the Grand Opening announcement, and join me on that day in getting to know the truly remarkable people I described in this blog post.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Anonymous said...

Buck,

The small blog that Brian posted was about LAFD helicopters and their activities. Not about LACOFD, LAPD, LASD, Ventura CO FD, or any one elses airships.

I believe Brian always strives to be humble and know him to possess quite a bit of humility. That being said, he is an employee of the LAFD, therefore he may have a bit of a bias or slant towards the LAFD!!

Relax and enjoy the blog. Brian puts his heart and soul into it and for that we appreciate him

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