Scenes From BCSO Air Support Team Training With LAFD

Members of the BCSO Air Support Team and Los Alamos Firefighters training together Thursday at Station 3 in White Rock gather for a group photo. Photo by Jim Bergauer

Refitted hoist for rescue operations. Photo by Jim Bergauer

LAFD members moving away from rotating blades after flight. Photo by Jim Bergauer

By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post
caclark@ladailypost.com

Team members from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) Metropolitan Air Support Unit were in town Thursday to train with Los Alamos firefighters at Station 3 on N.M. 4 in White Rock.

BCSO Air Support Unit team members meet with fire departments and law enforcement personnel around the state to familiarize them with the capabilities of the unit.

“They showed us the services and capabilities they have available and we showed them our capabilities to see where we can coordinate,” LAFD Training Division Chief James Thwaits told the Los Alamos Daily Post.

Thursday’s crew consisted of BCSO Pilot and Undersheriff Larry Koren who has more than 30 years of experience, Tactical Flight Officer and Hoist Operator Lt. Fred Beers, Paramedic Jason Williams from the University of New Mexico Hospital and BCSO Deputy and Hoist Operator Amity Livingston. They are assisted by a Mobile Community Action Team (MCAT) headed by Sgt. Chris Star, which leads ground-based rescues.

Local resident Jim Bergauer spent time with the crew Thursday and said they were very welcoming and shared information about their services.

The unit’s helicopter is a 1970 UH1H or Huey purchased for $1 through a military and law enforcement agreement, Bergauer said. It was purchased 29 years ago and personally rebuilt by Undersheriff Koren. It has been used by BCSO for last 20 years for Search And Rescue (SAR), firefighting and law enforcement operations.

To fly at high altitudes, the helicopter’s original engine was scrapped and an engine from a military Cobra Gunship installed, which allows the team to fly up to 12,000 feet in performance of their duties. It is the only unit like it in the United States in that it combines Level I Trauma Support Personnel from UNM hospital, if needed, and law enforcement and fire department personnel on one dedicated team. The team flies 30-40 missions a year on average including at night.

“It is not unusual to cut a 20-hour rescue involving 20 people down to 3 hours using this capability,” Bergauer said. “The citizens of New Mexico are incredibly lucky to have this capability. In addition, we definitely get our tax monies worth from this unit.”

The program was started by Undersheriff Koren because he felt, “…like a buzzard when circling a victim who did not get rescued in time”.

LAFD practices moving away from moving rotor blades. Photo by Jim Bergauer

UNM Hospital Paramedic Jason Williams. Photo by Jim Bergauer

Airborne with two team members demonstrating airlift rescues. Photo by Jim Bergauer

BCSO Pilot and Undersheriff Larry Koren, left, with members of the LAFD. Photo by Jim Bergauer

Lifting off to demonstrate hoist capabilities. Photo by Jim Bergauer

The BCSO’s 1970 Huey. Photo by Jim Bergauer

Crew members provide a young visitor from Florida staying at the White Rock RV Park with a up close tour of helicopter Thursday at Fire Station 3 on N.M. 4. Photo by Jim Bergauer

Training completed, the crew departs on their return trip to Albuquerque. Photo by Jim Bergauer

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