According to Dunsmuir-Castella fire chief Dan Padilla, the fire started on the west of Interstate 5 at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 12, just south of Castella.

A small, 1.3 acre fire near Castella on Thursday was quickly contained thanks to the combined, synchronized efforts of local firefighters working in tandem with the helicopter repel crew. The crew had been pre-positioned at Mott Field the day before the fire occurred for the sole, specific purpose of being ready for “initial attack” in the event of a fire.

According to Dunsmuir-Castella fire chief Dan Padilla, the fire started on the west of Interstate 5 at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 12, just south of Castella.

Padilla said it was a team effort as the Dunsmuir-Castella Fire District, Mt. Shasta Fire District, and CAL FIRE all responded and pitched in until the U.S. Forest Service took over management of the incident.

According to fire helicopter manager Kyle Johnson, the helicopter and repel crew from Grande Ronde, Ore., had been strategically pre-positioned “for initial attack” at Dunsmuir’s Mott Airport the previous day so they would be ready to respond in the event of a wildfire outbreak.

The repel crew from northeast Oregon consisted of six crew members: helicopter manager Kyle Johnson, fire pilot Michael Stephens, USFS senior firefighter Scott Gallagher, lead crew Casey Sandusky, and crew members Eric Daiger and Tim Tran.

The Bell helicopter 205 A-1++ flew from Mott Airport to Castella, where it landed in the schoolyard at Castle Rock Elementary School. With the aid of a “Bambi bucket,” the helicopter was able to dip water out of the Sacramento River to douse the perimeter of the fire for containment. The helicopter continued to provide water from the river until there was enough ground control personnel working to contain the fire.

Repel crew members explained that, once there are a number of firefighters on the ground working to contain the fire, it would be dangerous for the helicopter to continue dumping water because the weight and force of the water could potentially cause severe harm to the firefighters.

One of the crew members said that he’d been badly injured by a helicopter delivery of water at another fire he’d been working on, causing him to suffer a major back injury.

When the fire first began burning, Castella resident Kristen Pierce, who lives near the elementary school, was greatly concerned about the potential risk of the fire getting out of control. Because of the alarming wildfires so close to home last year, Pierce said, “It scares me to death! And I just thank God all of these (first responders) are here. They’re godsends!”

The fire started after school hours, while Karli Thunborg, Instructional Aide at Castle Rock Elementary School was working in her role as After School Coordinator.

“It was cool seeing the helicopter land in the (school) field,” Thunborg said. She was not unduly alarmed. “I feel like I got information quickly. Autumn (Funk, Castle Rock School superintendent/principal) called me right away and the CHP officer talked to us to give us a heads up.”

Padilla said there were no explorers in residence at the newly-remodeled Castella Firehouse at the time of the incident. He added that they are still looking for applicants for their sleeper program.

Padilla said interested candidates for the program can speak with him Padilla at the Castella Firehouse between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, or they can call (530) 235-2551.