IDAHO CITY, Idaho — My family and I was driving around Grimes Creek when we got stopped in an unusual traffic jam in rural Idaho, turns out a helicopter touched down to transport a patient to St. Luke's in Boise.
In scenarios like these it takes a team to help someone in an emergency so the Clear Creek Volunteer Fire Department blocked traffic to give the helicopter a place to land on the road while East Boise County had an ambulance on scene.
Reid Aldrich started flying choppers when he joined the Army, it has taken him 12 years to land this job with Idaho Helicopters which gets contracted out by Air St. Luke's who has a team providing medical assistance during the flight.
"I do the best I can," said Aldrich. "It feels good when there’s a good outcome obviously we some some pretty bad stuff too, I got great crew members sometimes it is shocking to see how good they are at saving a life."
The Clear Creek Volunteer Fire Department's main objective is fighting wildfires, it's a tough job because if a fire breaks out they will be first on the scene to try and save homes and prevent the fire from spreading before help arrives.
"It’s important to note we are in the wildland urban interface," said Mike Underwood who works full-time at Micron in addition to being a volunteer fire fighter. "We have three or four hundred homes up here in the mountains, they are all surrounded by trees and vegetation so it is a particularly challenging aspect for fire department that is 100 percent volunteers.”
But on this day Mike got the opportunity to create a helipad on the road and guide in the Air St. Luke's helicopter which can respond a lot faster than driving people down mountain roads to get to the hospital.
"It’s really cool landing helicopters," said Underwood. "It’s safety we have to make sure traffic is clear, make sure there is no flying debris that is going to get caught up in the rotors and make sure they have plenty of room in case something happens."
Aldrich tells us he enjoys working with these rural departments and is happy to help because he knows resources are stretched thin.
"They kind of turn into family," said Aldrich. "A lot of those small rural areas are lacking in resources whether it is volunteers, money or equipment."
Aldrich says the Boise area is really competitive for helicopter pilots, but now that he has this job he loves saving lives and he also likes flying a Bell 429 helicopter.
"I'm fortunate to fly this helicopter it is one of the best in the industry it is fast and strong," said Aldrich. "A lot of times we get those calls in the top of the Sawtooths that are hard for a heavy, average powered helicopter to go and we can go in there and perform the job safely, it’s a blessing to me."
Air St. Luke's has memberships available for all of Idaho and much of the northwest, for $60 a year people can sign up and that means if they have a problem and need help Air St. Luke's will fly-in and people won't have to foot the bill for the flight or deal with insurance.
The Clear Creek Volunteer Fire Department has something similar as people in the area fund this department, people can buy in or not but if they don't they have to pay the bill for the response from the volunteer fire department.