NEAR SISTERS, Ore. — The ashes from the Pole Creek Fire near Sisters are cool now, and fire season is over, but a month ago, on September 28th, the fire was erupting into an inferno in thousands of acres of beetle-killed pine trees.
Flying above was Rogue Valley helicopter pilot Joseph Berto, with a water bucket below his chopper. On the ground, a lone firefighter was patrolling the lines when Berto realized the exploding fire was about to be trap him. So the two orchestrated what may be the first ever rescue in a water drop bucket.
With no other helicopters to help out and no one on the ground to assist, Berto suggested the firefighter climb in the empty water bucket and be flown to a clear meadow a mile or so away. Within five minutes or less the firefighter was safely back on the ground and rescue history was made.
Since it had never been done before and was outside Forest Service protocol, Berto was concerned his actions might be condemned, but a study of the situation and the actions both men took won Forest Service approval, although its not likely to be recommended in the future.