EL CAJON, Calif. (KGTV) - — A unique helicopter program at CAL FIRE/San Deigo County Fire is making it faster for people to get the care they need.
The department recently announced that their hoist rescue helicopter was upgraded from Basic Life Support to Advanced Life Support.
Since 2005, CAL FIRE/San Deigo County Fire, in partnership with the San Deigo County Sheriff's Department, has used the helicopter to perform rescues and put out wildfires in the county's backcountry.
"It's very treacherous and very popular hiking trails," Captain Brad Loven with CAL FIRE/San Deigo County Fire said.
As an Advanced Life Support Rescue Aircraft, paramedics can now administer care onboard the helicopter instead of waiting until it lands.
"It's going to increase the survivability of the patients when we bring the paramedic to them," Loven said.
A total of six Firefighter/Paramedics & Engineer/Paramedics had to complete Basic Helicopter Operations and Safety (BHOS) for the new role.
"Every rescue is going to be different," Jeff Gauyan, one of the paramedics, said. "Training is huge for this kind of program and working together as a team."
The next-level care is already helping to save lives.
The crew has been on seven missions since the ALS upgrade.
Last week, they saved a migrant stranded on Otay Mountain without water or food.
"They were in bad shape, dehydrated, nauseous and we were able to take the ALS care with us and they were able to treat them right on scene, get them feeling better right away," Loven said.