The Los Angeles County Fire Department has been selected to operate an exploratory helicopter-ambulance service on 106 miles of major freeways and highways in northwestern Los Angeles County. This test program uses helicopters to transport patients to hospitals from accidents in remote areas.
The fire department is using a 206 Jet Ranger, which can carry two stretcher patients, a pilot and a fireman-attendant. County firemen assigned to the program have received emergency medical training at Harbor General Hospital.
The Jet Ranger flies in excess of 120 miles an hour and within 20 minutes can reach any portion of the project area from its base at County Station 81 in Mint Canyon. Initially, the air-ambulance service will be provided only from Friday noon to Sunday night, when most accidents occur.
The northwest section of the county has many remote areas of back roads, plus heavily traveled freeways. The copter will respond to all medical emergencies on the 34-mile stretch of the Antelope Valley Freeway, 42 miles of Interstate 5 and the 30-mile stretch of State Highway 138. The unit will not be limited to major roads and freeways, but will also respond to offhighway incidents in the 450-squaremile area.
Four hospitals, Inter-Valley and Golden State in the Newhall-Saugus area, Swan Memorial in Palmdale, and Antelope Valley in Lancaster, are participating in the program coordinated by the U.C.L.A. Graduate School of Business Administration.
The California Highway Patrol, the Sheriff’s Department ,or the County Fire Department initiates the call for the aerial ambulance service. On all calls, a conventional ground ambulance also is dispatched as a backup and the nearest County fire unit is sent to assist in first aid and rescue.
The service began in late April. In an incident, County Patrol 77 requested the helicopter-ambulance for two burn victims in the Gorman area. Ground ambulance response to the scene and return to the hospital would have taken as long as two hours, but the helicopter made the round trip in less than an hour.
The L.A. County Fire Department has priority use of the helicopter for fire emergencies.