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Sonoma County Fire welcomes new helicopter for firefighting and rescue

Cooler weather and the return of rain

Firefighters want to remind everybody of the cooler weather that will be brought by the coming winter season, and this is a great time to check your chimneys for debris before use, to prevent chimney fires. We have already started to see some rain this season, and we want to remind everybody to drive slower and increase your following distance while driving due to slick roads and unexpected downed trees.

Sonoma County Fire District

We are very excited to announce the launch of our new helicopter, call sign, “Sonoma County 1!” Oct. 15, 2022, Sonoma County 1, went live and is responding to calls. Sonoma County Fire District (SCFD), in partnership with REACH Air Medical Services (REACH), announced that its new public safety helicopter base, located at the Sonoma County Airport, is now in service. The Airbus H135 helicopter is operated as part of a public-private partnership agreement between the two organizations. Beginning immediately, the new base will provide aerial fire reconnaissance, search and assist capabilities and critical care medical transport to Sonoma County and the surrounding areas. The operation will expand to include aerial firefighting utilizing a helicopter bucket system.

“We are excited to be able to offer these enhanced services to the communities that we serve,” said Mark Heine, Fire Chief, Sonoma County Fire District. “Our mission is to compassionately care for the safety of our communities and our visitors through progressive professional emergency preparedness and response. Our partnership with REACH Air Medical Services brings together two strong organizations forming a strong partnership to enhance the delivery of emergency medical services, rescue services, and critical aerial firefighting services to enhance the safety of our communities.”

“REACH has proudly served the communities of Sonoma County for 35 years,” said Sean Russell, Pacific Region President for REACH parent company, Global Medical Response. “To see our first base transform from an air medical operation-only to a base that will serve our community in an expanded capacity is a proud moment for all of us. We look forward to a very long and successful partnership with the Sonoma County Fire District and to enhancing our services to the community.”

The joint partnership leverages the expertise of both organizations. The aircraft is operated by REACH’s highly trained and experienced pilots, flight nurses and flight paramedics and maintained by their on-site aviation maintenance technicians. SCFD provides all administrative support and fire training and will lead the integration into current county-wide firefighting and EMS operations. Missions flown for firefighting operations will have an SCFD Helicopter Fire Specialist on board to provide tactical aerial firefighting command.

The H-135 helicopter, referred to as Sonoma County 1, is an aircraft known for its versatility and use in aerial fire reconnaissance and suppression, and in search and assist operations. The aircraft has also been configured for air medical transports and is outfitted with ICU-level medical equipment and has advanced avionics and safety features. Crew onboard the aircraft will utilize night vision goggles for nighttime operations and fire reconnaissance operations. Later in the summer, the aircraft will be equipped with a flexible firefighting bucket for aerial water drops. The bucket is capable of holding up to 120-gallons of water.

Graton Fire

The Graton Fire Christmas Tree Farm open Nov. 25, 2022. We are celebrating our 17th year of selling Christmas trees at the Graton Fire Christmas Tree Farm. For the 10th year, we will feature pre-cut Noble, Nordmann, and other trees from a certified, sustainably-grown tree farm in Oregon. They are kept in water so they will last significantly longer and be safer in your homes. We highly encourage the pre-cut trees, especially if bought early in the season – they will actually last longer than the choose-n-cuts! Don’t forget to grab a holiday wreath and ornaments to go along with your tree as well!

Don’t miss Graton Fire’s annual Christmas Tree Farm, which opens the day after Thanksgiving. Photo courtesy Graton Fire District.
Don’t miss Graton Fire’s annual Christmas Tree Farm, which opens the day after Thanksgiving. Photo courtesy Graton Fire District.

We will be open Tuesday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. after Thanksgiving Day. We invite you to come and enjoy homemade apple cider as you wander through our natural tree farm. Did you sponsor a tree seedling in the past? Come find your tag in the nursery or out in the plantation. Did you know that each acre of Christmas trees generates enough oxygen for 18 people?

We realize several long-standing tree farms have retired and with them the traditions of family togetherness, holiday smells, and all the “little” things that make a fresh tree and Christmas so special. We look forward to continuing to give our community these special times and our volunteer firefighters and on duty crew enjoy the opportunity of seeing each of you, year after year. Please come and say hello to Heather O’Dell, our tree farm manager, who continues to nurture and maintain the trees on our behalf. With her efforts, our firefighters, and the support of our community, we anticipate another great season!

Graton Fire will also be accepting donations for the annual toy drive soon, we and the Graton Community very much appreciate the donations. Notification of our toy drive starting will be posted on social media and on our monument sign in front of our station, thank you and happy holidays!

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