On Wednesday, Air Idaho Rescue reopened its seasonal base for the ninth year at the West Yellowstone Airport.
This comes just in time for the park's busy summer season.
Casey Waldron has been a flight nurse with Air Idaho for four years. He says they're excited to be back in West Yellowstone and prepared for this season's rescues.
“Up here, it's a lot of traumas," said Waldron. "Injuries from animals. We have a lot of high-altitude complications. People need a lot of oxygen when they come up here because they're not used to being at the altitude.”
Air Idaho has five bases. The West Yellowstone seasonal base has a crew of 13. Flight Paramedic Brayden Averett shares one of his most memorable rescues.
“We had a call where we were able to land pretty remote in the park and take out an injured hiker, and we had a rendezvous with the ground EMS unit and they had spent hours hiking in to get to this patient," said Averett. "They did an amazing job stabilizing and packaging them, and we kind of took them from there.”
The base covers most of Yellowstone. The responding crew decides where to transport patients based on distance.
“We are just about halfway between Bozeman Deaconess and Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center," said Waldron. "So basically, if we respond north of the base, we'll go to Bozeman. If we respond south of the base, we'll go to EIRMC.”
Lead Pilot Keith Grover says the crew can get anywhere in the park quickly.
“Base average is ten-minute lift time," said Grover. "We've had as good as a five-minute lift. And from here to, say, Old Faithful is about an 8 to 10-minute flight too.”
For the crew, they all say the same thing about their seasonal base in West Yellowstone.
“It's the coolest job in the world," said Waldron. "Even on our worst day, we're flying around in some of the most beautiful country in the world. We get to help people on their worst possible day, and we get to be the best part of that day.”
Averett said, “We’re so privileged to be able to come up here and provide these resources to not only people that come up here to visit the park but the people that live up here as well. It's a good office with a good view.”