California Highway Patrol aircraft have rescued a total of 44 people, as well as five dogs and a cat, while responding to the North Bay fires that have killed at least nine people and destroyed more than 1,500 structures.
Rescue operations have slowed significantly, however, with 42 of those occurring before Monday afternoon.
“It drastically dropped,” Flight Officer Paramedic Shawn Bouyea said Tuesday.
Not all of those rescues were done by pulling people up into the air, however, especially in cases that involved pets.
“We went skids down, we actually landed,” Bouyea said. “A lot of people won’t leave without their animals.”
They also used the public address system on their aircraft to warn residents of the need to evacuate, and in some cases landed near homes under threat from the fire to provide notification.
“A lot of people didn’t know they needed to be evacuated, so we landed and expedited the process for them,” Bouyea said.
The CHP performed that service for hundreds of individuals, but there’s no official count, according to Bouyea.
The CHP’s Golden Gate Division has two helicopters and an airplane on standby for general law enforcement duty, but they’re still available for rescues. Anybody still in need of rescue as the fires continue to burn is advised to wave their arms at aircraft overhead.
“Make yourself known,” Bouyea said. “A lot of people didn’t think the helicopter was looking for them.”