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Forest Service rappel teams return to the Bitterroot next week

Posted at 3:30 PM, Apr 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-15 12:46:53-04

STEVENSVILLE - US Forest Service (USFS) rappel teams will be training in the Bitterroot for the second year in a row as they gear up for the critical task of attack wildfires from the air.

Last year the rappelling teams came from all over the Northwest to double check their skills and training, using both the Smokejumper Center, and the Ruffatto Ranch near to the Bass Creek Recreation Area.

The visitors included veteran firefighters who had been dropping into fires for many years, and rookies who were just getting their start.

There will be 71-rappellers and spotters — along with a dozen additional support staff and three helicopters in operation — between April 19 and April 25.

No fire closures are expected, but visitors to Bass Creek are asked to give the firefighters plenty of room.

Horseback riders should expect to hear helicopters overhead anytime between 8am and 5pm.

Additional training is planned for the first week in May.

Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Matt Anderson says the rappellers "provide a vital service" and are especially useful for tackling remote backcountry fires while they're still small.

He says it's an "honor" to host the National Recertification Training again this year.

USFS rookie rappellers overcome intense training to provide critical protection