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Rookie heli-rappellers prepare for wildfire season

Rookie heli-rappellers prepare for wildfire season

SALMON, Idaho - As wildfire season nears, firefighters from all over the country are in Salmon learning the ropes of helicopter rappelling.

The National Rappel Academy in Salmon is one of a kind. For the fourth consecutive year veteran rappellers, who trained two weeks ago, are teaching nearly 80 rookies for a week in preparation of a busy summer season.

The rookies go through ground training before practicing from a tower that simulates a helicopter. A spotter, check spotter and rappeller all practice from the top of the deck.

Don Campbell, a specialist at the National Rappel Academy, has actual experience in every position. He said the future heli-rappellers will focus on the initial attack on wildfires.

"We can control them until they get to the mega fires, you know, when they're millions and millions of dollars," said Campbell. "We're catching them when they're $10,000, maybe."

Carrie Bond, a rookie from Iowa, said her week of training has been busy but exciting.

"It's intimidating to look at the towers and look at the helicopters go up, but the crew here has been awesome," said Bond. "I couldn't ask for a better crew."

Like her fellow rookies, Bond is eager to see what the summer has in store.

"I will be based out of Salmon, but as of where we go from here, no clue," said Bond.

Campbell said she'll be plenty busy.

"They probably staff 50 or 60, probably more than that, fires a year just out of this base alone," said Campbell.

To pass, every rookie will have to be perfect through every step.

"It's performance-based training, so if they don't make it through one step they're just, they're done," said Campbell.

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