Coasties earn awards for rescuing firefighters

| August 13, 2020

Stemming from an incident last September, four men of the US Coast Guard have received medals for their part in rescuing two injured firefighters. The firefighters were battling the Middle Fire in northern California. They’d been injured by falling rocks and were reported to have serious head, neck, and back injuries. The US Forest Service called the Coast Guard for assistance in evacuating them.

Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay dispatched an MH-65D Dolphin. Approaching the fire, the helicopter crew found the injured within 10 yards of the wildfire. Firefighters on the ground had cut a very small clearing in the woods to effect the rescue.

The crew of the helicopter, led by Cmdr. Derek Schramel (pilot), Lt.j.g. Adam Ownbey (co-pilot), Petty Officer 1st Class Graham McGinnis (an aviation survival technician), and Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Cook (an aviation maintenance technician), dropped their hoist. They conducted a hoist drop from the maximum length of 240 feet.

PO1 McGinnis went down into the rugged terrain, mere feet from the raging inferno. Loading up the inured firefighters one by one and then ascending himself.

Hovering over a fire is a tremendous act of airmanship. Updrafts create intense buffeting on the helicopter. To do so with precision 24 stories off the already high altitude ridge is especially impressive.

Both injured firefighters were successfully evacuated and brought to a nearby hospital for treatment.

This week, the Coast Guard awarded CDR Schramel and PO1 McGinnis the Distinguished Flying Cross for their “outstanding airmanship and devotion to duty.” LTJG Ownbey and PO3 Cook both received Air Medals for their role in the mission.

Source; Coast Guard News

News of the original rescue are here.

Category: Coast Guard, Valor

Comments (7)

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  1. Fjardeson says:

    Bravo Zulu, Coasties! SAR all the way!

  2. 5th/77th FA says:

    BZ Coasties…”Just another day at the office.”

    I would say that what everyone thought was Church Bells pealing on that mountain top was the great big brass ones that this SAR Group had hanging.

    Thanks Mason.

  3. The Other Whitey says:

    I remember reading the Blue and Green Sheets for this incident. They had cut out a TRA for these guys, which reduced (not eliminated) the risk to personnel on the ground from the fire, but there was no helping the shitty conditions in which this crew held a hover, and way above ground effect at that. That was some top-notch flying.

    I was in that proverbial boat myself in 2016. I collapsed on the line, dizzy and nauseous. I was dragged to the ridgetop, assessed by the line medic, and next thing I know, a CA National Guard Blackhawk is orbiting overhead. The Blackhawk held a high hover above the timber canopy, a Army medic with a 3rd ID combat patch came down, they hoisted us out, and that was my ride to the ER. My main concern was how pissed my wife would be. She hasn’t let me live it down—my contact picture in her phone is one of me being hoisted, which I think would look very cool if not for the circumstances of it.

  4. Graybeard says:

    Y’all done good, boys.

  5. AW1Ed says:

    Jumping into the ocean is one thing- hoisting down into a fire is a whole new level. Bravo Zulu, Coasties!

    • The Other Whitey says:

      Simply being present on the fire line isn’t all that big of a deal. Holding a high hover over active fire while fighting hot, low-density updrafts and whatever prevailing winds are present, and especially hoisting to and from the helo that’s holding said hover, much, MUCH bigger deal. Balls of steel, especially as I’m guessing the pilots had little to no prior experience flying on a fire.