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Help from above: A look at St. Paul's flying firefighters

Updated: August 01, 2019 06:16 PM

Minnesota’s Aviation Rescue Team (MART) deployed more times last weekend then they often see in a month, after three calls for help sent teams on rescues to the North Shore and Boundary Waters.

The team is made up of 16 St. Paul firefighters and pilots from the Minnesota State Patrol, and is based at a hangar at Holman Field in St. Paul.

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"There are some pretty astonished looks when we come out of the sky hanging from below the helicopter,” said St. Paul Fire Captain Mike Aspnes. “That's what happened this time, the campers were pretty excited when they saw us show up.

Aspnes was one of the firefighters that took part in a rescue of an injured camper with Cook County Search and Rescue and the Tofte Fire Department.

They were also sent up to the Boundary Waters to help a group of girl scouts from Chicago, but a ground crew was able to perform the rescue before MART arrived.

RELATED: Busy weekend for Minnesota Aviation Rescue Team

If you hunt, fish, or hike anywhere in the state and something goes wrong and a ground crew is unable to make the rescue, this special team can launch from St. Paul.

"It's very exciting and lot of fun but it's something we take seriously," Aspnes said.

The firefighters attach themselves to a rope that dangles below the patrol’s chopper as they are lowered down to the ground.

The injured person is put into a basket or harness, then clipped to the rope with the firefighter and they are both lifted off the ground.

The patrol pilot has to lean out the window to watch the rescue below, looking for signals from the firefighter below to know when it’s safe to pull up and fly to meet a ground ambulance.

"We try not to go to fast,” Aspnes said. “When we have a patient on the line we try not to go more than 40 miles an hour."

The team trains around the year at Holman Field in St. Paul, at a site in Arden Hills, and in the Mississippi River.

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Credits

Eric Chaloux

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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