Working with the Butte County Sheriff is a great honor. Last year, I was literally heading their way to begin filming a drug trafficking organization (DTO) grow site clean-up effort when I got the call that everything was on hold due to a wildland fire. Little did any of us know then that it would become the most dangerous wildfire in memory for most Northern Californians.
Now, here we are many months later. Every member of the special enforcement unit knows people that lost their homes. In fact, as these brave men and women worked to save lives and property, they, themselves were aware that their own homes were burning to the ground.
These guys know how important it is to be prepared.
And that's why I was clipped into a special vest with webbing that could probably suspend a small elephant. It's called a STABO vest (STAbil BOdy). The idea is, in an effort to move personnel and equipment quickly and safely into, or out of, dangerous terrain, the most direct route would be, as a crow flies. So... that's the plan.
A helicopter with enough guts to pluck a grown man from the side of a hill lowers a long, hefty rope between the trees. Anyone wearing a well-fitting STABO harness can theoretically snap in a pair of locking carabiners and make his way, crow like, back to the LZ (landing zone).
I immediately liked the idea of that. After working with Mourad Gabriel and Greta Wengert of the IERC last year to remove tons of trash from former DTO grows, I know how knackered you get hiking into these ridiculously remote locations. But after that first "flight" I LOVED the idea.
My goal in working with anybody like a special law enforcement unit is to stay out of their way. So I jumped at the chance to become STABO and Skid Certified when they invited me to participate. I can now film alongside these brave men and women during their missions to keep our public lands free of human traffickers and environmental criminals that make up these DTO grows. (Skid riding is another adrenaline rush, as a helicopter toes into a hill, you slowly and incredibly gently add your weight to the skids and hang onto the side as the "ship" lifts off from the side of a hill that can't provide a full landing.)
As long as I stay out of their way, I hope they'll keep inviting me back.
Here's a chance to have a look at the view from the bottom of the rope. I installed a GoPro Fusion VR camera onto my helmet for one of the training rides. This is best viewed in YouTube where your device becomes the controller for the actual experience.
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