NewsWildfire Watch


Teen helicopter pilot from Montana joins the fight against CA wildfires

Posted at 7:31 AM, Sep 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-17 09:31:37-04

A 19-year-old helicopter pilot from the Billings area has joined the fight to help extinguish the wildfires that have burned 3 million acres in California. Ashli Blaine is just a teenager, but she flies one of the largest helicopters — the 40,000-pound CH-47 Chinook.

"You could say it's the family trade," Blaine told CBS News. "My dad's been fighting fires for close to 30 years now. As soon as I got into flying I knew that was going to be one of my end goals was to get into firefighting."

Flying as her dad's co-pilot, Ashli makes sure the water they're carrying hits its target.

"You have to be able to lean out the window basically and look at a water bucket underneath you and guide it where you want to go," she said.

"Sometimes we can be flying in very adverse conditions," Blaine said. "Thick smoke or just lots of other aircraft working with us that we have to be cognizant of."

But for a young woman who has been flying since she was 13, it's a dream summer job.

"I love what I do, especially getting to firefight with my dad. That's one of the best parts," she said.

"Other than flying, what's the most important lesson you've learned from your father?" CBS News asked.

"How to be a good person," Blaine replied. "He's a very compassionate and empathetic person. That's hopefully a trait that I can pick up from him and learn from him."