About The Crew

Plumas Helitack is a 15 person US Forest Service Helicopter Module. The program is hosted by the Plumas National Forest in the town of Quincy, California. The crew's primary mission is initial attack of wildland fires and responding to all risk incidents. Our primary response area is Northern California, although we are available and often mobilize nationwide.

The earliest mention of a helicopter crew on the Plumas is 1958, at which time the forest hosted a 2-seater Bell 47. Since the crew's inception the module configuration has changed multiple times. In the 1960s and early 70s the crew staffed 2 Type 3 Lamas along with a mobile retardant base and 6 personnel. In the early 1980s the crew was the first in Northern California to staff a Type 2 Medium Helicopter. At this time the module was staffed with 7. The crew began rappelling in the 1990s. In 2010 the Forest Service rappel program stood down. Currently there are only 2 rappel crews in Region 5. The Region is currently evaluating the program and assessing which modules to requalify as rappel platforms.


Plumas Helitack begins training in mid-April and works through October. The 120 day Type 2 Medium Helicopter Contract runs from June 1st until the end of September and is often extended into October. The crew averages 75-100 responses a year including several off-forest and out of Region assignments. Overtime is difficult to estimate, but crew members often exceed 500+ hours in an average season.

The permanent staff consists of 1 Superintendent, 1 Captain, 2 Squadleaders, and 3 Senior Firefighters. Staffing is rounded out for the field season with R5 Apprentices and Temp 1039 employees.


The crew travels extensively throughout Region 5 and the rest of the country. Recent assignments have included Alaska, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, and South Dakota. There is an active single resource rotation designed to keep firefighters on assignment; this is dependent on national and regional needs. Crewmembers often fill vacant positions for fire assignments with the local Hotshot Crew. During large fire assignments the crew is often called on to provide overhead, fire suppression, logistical support, and aviation management for the incident. Due to the nature of the job, crew members often work independently or in small groups in remote areas for days at a time.

The crew is staffed daily with 9-15 firefighters. The flight crew consists of 8 firefighters, including at least 1 Helicopter Manager, at least 1 Incident Commander Type 4, a qualified Crew Boss, 3+ Type 1 firefighters, a saw team and an EMT. Most flight loads will contain additionally qualified personnel such as Division Supervisors and Taskforce Leaders. Equipment carried on board includes a Bambi bucket, fire gear, trauma gear, tools, saws, and fuel. The module is self-sufficient for the first 36 hours on any incident.

The remaining crew not assigned to the daily flight load often follows the helicopter in the crew vehicles.  Additional equipment carried in the vehicles includes hand- and aerial-firing equipment, communication and logistical gear, portable pumps, cargo nets, helicopter longline, food boxes, additional trauma gear with oxygen, backboard and litter, extra hand tools, and saws.  The vehicle fleet consists of a crew carrier, a helitender, a "six-pack" truck and a single cab utility truck.


The heliport facilities includes two helipads, a training building, main office, saw shop, 3 equipment sheds, a fully equipped workout area, an extensive fitness trail system and a proficiency rappel tower.


The crew has its own barracks-style housing available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The barracks are located on site at the Mt. Hough Ranger District within walking distance of the heliport. The barracks have 4 double rooms and 1 single room for a total of 9 beds. In addition there are two double bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, dining area, laundry facilities, and living room with TV.