Video shows fire department helicopter rescue people, dogs from mountain during wildfire

Posted at 11:21 AM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-20 11:21:03-05

LOS ANGELES - New video released Monday shows Los Angeles fire officials pause their work dropping water on the Woolsey Fire to rescue three people and two dogs who were stuck in a remote area of the Santa Monica Mountains one day after the deadly blaze broke out, officials said.

Pilots David Nordquist and Joel Smith were battling the blaze in an L.A. Fire Department helicopter on Friday, Nov. 9, when they received a request to perform a rescue at Castro Peak, the agency said in a news release.

That morning, powerful winds fanning the blaze propelled it to double in size in less than two hours, bringing it to 8,000 acres.

The video begins as the pilots are making their way across smoky hillsides dotted with houses under threat from the fire. The helicopter then heads into a large, thick smoke column towering above the topography.

The atmosphere inside has a deep orange tinge, and patches of flames can be seen making their way toward the mountain's peak.

The ridge where the helicopter needed to land was filled with service vehicles, buildings and infrastructure, which LAFD said created "an incredibly complex scenario for landing."

"With their fuel supply dwindling and no resources available for a hoist operation, they made their approach," the release states.

Nordquist held the idling helicopter amid the brush with the blaze closing in, while Smith exited and ran to find those trapped. He can be seen escorting the individuals and their pooches up the hillside and into the chopper.

"Their professionalism, technical expertise and complete dedication to their mission was directly responsible for saving the lives of three people and two dogs," LAFD said of its pilots.

The destructive fire, which has claimed three lives, would explode to 91,500 acres by the end of the weekend.

Firefighters have since been able to gain the upper hand, thanks to subsiding winds.

On Monday, it stood at 96,969 acres and was 96 percent contained. But the toll to property continues to rise as authorities are able to survey the burn areas, and at least 1,500 structures have been destroyed with another 341 damaged.