Air Support Unit

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department Air Support Unit (ASU) currently has helicopters ready to respond to any emergency, day or night, rain or shine. The ASU is based in the center of the county at the Santa Ynez Airport and jointly operated by the Fire and Sheriff Departments. ASU is staffed seven days a week with professional pilots chosen for their experience in the fire and rescue disciplines. These pilots are responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft and are teamed up with an experienced Crew Chief. The Crew Chief is responsible for the strategic and tactical planning of the fire, rescue or medivac mission.

In order to accomplish the rescue or medivac mission, Fire Station 32, also located on the airport, provides rescue paramedics for the helicopter. These are the highly trained firefighters you often see dangling on a very small cable rescuing people in very dangerous places.

Air Santa Barbara County Fire Department

The rescue medics train for ocean rescue, cliff or mountain rescue and swift water rescue, day or night, rain or shine, and in the snow. These firefighters also provide a support role during fire operations such as cutting and staffing landing spots on wildland fires or filling the helicopter’s water tank for night fire suppression missions. Station 32 also provides the staffing for the helicopter fuel truck. This is especially crucial for the fire mission. This allows the helicopter to fuel close to the fire incident allowing a very quick return to dropping water.

The ASU has helicopters capable of performing all fire, rescue and medivac missions. The ASU helicopters are equipped with water dropping tanks that carry 320 gallons of water. These helicopters
can pump water from a reservoir or other suitable water source or can be filled on the ground with fire hose. The helicopters have rescue hoists to rescue people in precarious places and carry a full complement of medical equipment to treat the sick or injured either on the ground or in the air. During high fire season, the helicopters have the ability to transport fire crews to inaccessible locations.