Helicopter crew saves people, pets on peak during wildfire

In this Nov. 9, 2018 photo from video provided by the Los Angeles Fire Department, LAFD Air Operations pilot David Nordquist records as copilot Joel Smith leads a group of three adults and two dogs to their water-dropping helicopter atop Castro Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu, Calif. The video was recorded as the pilots battled the Woolsey Fire, which was raging through the Santa Monica Mountains toward Malibu. The crew was making a water drop when it was requested to divert to Castro Peak for the rescue, despite dwindling fuel and flames coming near. (David Nordquist/Los Angeles Fire Department via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Video released Tuesday shows the dramatic moment firefighters rescued three people and two dogs as thick smoke and flames approached in Southern California.

The Los Angeles Fire Department video shows one of its helicopter crew rescuing the group from a mountain peak as a humongous wildfire bore down, coming as close as a football field.

The Nov. 9 video was taken as pilots David Nordquist and Joel Smith battled the Woolsey Fire that was raging through the Santa Monica Mountains toward Malibu.

The crew was making a water drop when it was asked to rescue the group. The pilots headed that way despite dwindling fuel.

With smoke darkening the sky, they hunted for a landing spot among antenna towers, service buildings, cars and vegetation.

They finally found a tight and tricky spot on top of a ridge and Smith got out to help the people and their pets, including an English mastiff who was afraid of the helicopter and had to be coaxed by its owner to get on board.

Once everyone is safe inside, the pilots take off, with Smith remarking: “Ugh, that was close.”

“That’s enough excitement for me today,” he said as they pulled away from the massive smoke plumes.

Nordquist responds: “You and me both, brother.”

Los Angeles fire spokesman Brian Humphrey said none of the people or animals was hurt. The video of their rescue has gotten so much attention, members of the public have been calling the department to make sure everyone was OK and to commend the pilots, he said.

The department’s Facebook post of the video had more than 1,000 shares.

One user wrote that she “kept having to wipe tears watching this!”

“Brave, brave, brave,” she said.

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