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Donated Airbus H-125 will help San Miguel County Sheriff's Office with search and rescue, firefighting

Airbus H-125 helicopter donation_San Miguel County Sheriff
Posted at 12:50 PM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-01 11:44:44-04

SAN MIGUEL COUNTY, Colo. — Thanks to an anonymous donor, the San Miguel County Sheriff's Office now owns a new Airbus H-125 helicopter that can aid in search and rescue as well as firefighting missions.

The Airbus H-125 is mostly used for high-altitude operations. It is the only type of helicopter that has landed and taken off from Mount Everest at 20,029 feet — a title it earned in 2005 and still holds today. This mission broke the record for the highest-altitude landing and takeoff.

“This is a valuable and much appreciated new asset," said San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters. "When we need air resources, we need them ASAP. This will help us best respond to emergency situations that require aircraft and allow us assist other regional agencies who may need it.”

The donation will cover all maintenance, fuel and operating supplies for two years, said Jennifer Dinsmore, emergency management coordinator with the sheriff's office. As of now, the sheriff's office does not have anybody trained to operate the aircraft.

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Because the helicopter is fast, agile and simple to use, according to Airbus, it is used by law enforcement across 30 counties, including the United States. The cabin inside is wide and unobstructed, meaning it can hold up to six passengers or up to four when configured for emergency medical transportation, in addition to one or two pilots.

Dinsmore said she expects to use the helicopter five to 10 times a month.

It can also carry a Bambi Bucket system, which is a specialized bucket that can fill with water for aerial firefighting. It can drop about 210 gallons of water each time it flies over a fire, according to Airbus. However, the donated helicopter needs this outfitting and will be used solely for fire spotting until it is equipped with firefighting resources, Dinsmore said.

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In the same announcement Tuesday, Masters asked backcountry explorers to get their Colorado Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card.

These cards supply reimbursements to search and rescue teams — which are staffed primarily by volunteers — for the costs incurred while in the field and provide funding for related equipment. Without COSAR funding, those dollars would come out of the volunteers' pockets. This includes the price of a rescue requiring aircraft, which are typically more costly, according to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

The one-year card costs $3 and a five-year card costs $12. The card is not insurance and does not reimburse individuals or pay for their medical treatments.

In Colorado, anybody rescued by an all-volunteer search and rescue team will not face charges for their rescue, but they are responsible for medical care by ambulance personnel and medical transport, whether by ambulance or helicopter.