Night landings cleared in El Dorado National Forest |

Night landings cleared in El Dorado National Forest

Emily Aughinbaugh, Tribune staff writer

One of two helicopter landing pads in the El Dorado National Forest will soon be able to handle night landings.

Output Technology Solutions, based in El Dorado Hills, started a crusade to light the helipads last July because of the great number of its employees who travel to work via U.S. Highway 50.

The U.S. Forest Service heliports located at the Pacific Ranger Station, a few miles east of Pollock Pines along U.S. Highway 50, and Big Hill, located on the Western edge of Desolation Wilderness, were constructed 30 years ago and can only safely facilitate day landings.

The nearest location that emergency helicopters can land at night is the Placerville Airport, which officials say is 45 minutes away in good conditions.

“There’s something called the golden hour in emergency medicine,” said Rich Platt, Pacific Ranger District resource officer. “The golden hour, or the first hour, is really critical in the survival rate of the patient. If you have to get an injured person out of the canyon and there is no way to get a helicopter, you’re usually greater than an hour.”

OTS contributed $5,000, which was matched Tuesday by the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department, and authorized by the Board of Supervisors.

Lighting equipment for each pad costs $15,000 and Mary Lynn Carton, OTS community affairs director, said $9,000 has yet to be raised for the illumination of second pad.

Carlton said West Slope residents and organizations were generous in supporting the cause, but despite her pleas on the South Shore, only Horizon Casino Resort donated money.

Carlton said the Pacific Ranger Station helipad should be lit by March.

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