Care Flight finds permanent home in Truckee | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Care Flight finds permanent home in Truckee

Jenell Schwab
jschwab@sierrasun.com

Courtesy of Care FlightThe local Care Flight helicopter - a Eurocopter AS350 B3 - hovers recently over Lake Tahoe. It is specially built to handle well at high altitudes and in windy conditions. It can land on a small footprint, such as a mountain top or high meadow.

TRUCKEE – The couch-surfing days are over for the Care Flight helicopter crew based at the Truckee Tahoe Airport. After nine years of bouncing from one host to another without a permanent home, operators finally have a place to call their own for good.

“Through surveys, we knew the community valued the service provided by Care Flight,” said Airport Manager Kevin Smith at a Thursday afternoon ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Care Flight facility. “Over and over, the community identified them as a priority. It was important to find them a comfortable and convenient place to stay.”

Care Flight, a helicopter emergency medical transport service, has been operating in the area since 2003.

For the first three years, the Truckee base was a 12-hours-a-day operation. During this phase, the Truckee Fire Protection District and Calfire, (then known as CDF) shared their living space with Care Flight. The helicopter crew, like firefighters, works on stand-by duty.

“We were incredibly welcomed,” said Lead Pilot Andy Peek, who has been stationed at the Truckee base since its inception. “They think of us as them and, you know, we buttered them up.”

But in 2006, when Care Flight increased operations to provide 24-hour coverage out of Truckee, the helicopter crew was no longer willing to impose on their hosts.

Recommended Stories For You

So they moved into a couple of fifth-wheel travel-trailers for a summer, rented a semi-permanent space for a while and even briefly occupied the second floor of Truckee Town Hall, where, they say, they kept a low profile and did not attend Town Council meetings.

“We did everything we could. Everywhere we just made it work,” said Peek. “It’s been a wild ride.”

The communal efforts over the years to make room for and house the helicopter crew did not escape the notice of Care Flight spokesman Kurt Althof.

“It shows how the community values medivac,” he said.

The new location – 12111 Chandelle Way in Truckee – will cut call response time by three to four minutes, Althof said.

“If your loved one is in need,” said Althof, “those minutes will be critical.”

Peek agrees. From the windows of his room, he can not only keep an eye on the Eurocopter AS350 B3 parked outside, he can also see both Brockway and Donner summits.

The vista is as practical as it is pretty; it allows Peek to check the current weather conditions with a glance.

“In some places we’ve stayed,” he explained, “we had to go for a walk.”

Althof and Peek credit Airport Manager Kevin Smith with pushing the new facility through to completion. Smith oversaw the $45,000 remodel of the building that now houses the crew.

The building had been used for many purposes, Smith said. In order for it to be functional and comfortable, it needed a kitchen and an extra bedroom.

The airport will recoup the cost of the remodel through monthly rent, which Care Flight pays at a rate of $2,400 a month.

“Smith came in and said ‘Let’s get this done,'” said Althof.