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Fire Aviation Training Planned West of Bend


An annual national recertification event for the U.S. Forest Service Helicopter Rappel Program is slated to occur on the Deschutes National Forest west of Bend adjacent to Forest Service Road 41. The event is scheduled to start April 17, and run through at least April 24, with additional days possible if weather impacts helicopter operations.

During the training dates, the public can anticipate up to five helicopters hovering in the air west of Forest Service Road 41 and south of the Cascade Lakes Highway at any given time between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. including on weekends. This location was selected for this national event due to meeting several pre-determined criteria focused on safety and functionality.

While no trail or road closures are anticipated, those recreating along Forest Service Road 41 and adjacent trails should adhere to any posted signage and avoid closed areas for their safety and the safety of training participants.

The national rappel event will provide annual recertifications for 45 spotters and 120 veteran rappellers. Rappellers are aerial-delivered wildland firefighters that rappel out of a helicopter to fight wildfires that are often in remote, difficult to reach locations. In addition to initial attack, rappel crews also support large fire response, all-hazard incident operations and resource management objectives.

During the 2023 wildfire season, rappel crews responded to 455 initial attack wildfire incidents across the United States and Canada with 98 operational rappel actions taking place in Oregon and Washington. Locally, the Central Oregon Rappellers, based in Prineville and hosted by the Ochoco National Forest, typically have 28 rappellers on staff during wildfire season. They respond to wildfires in Central Oregon and around the Pacific Northwest.

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