National Park search and rescue team now based at Enumclaw Airport

The new base helps the rescue team react faster to not only national park rescues, but wildfires

Did you hear extra helicopters last month? That’s because the Enumclaw Airport is now home to the Mount Rainier search and rescue team.

The six-person helicopter crew and its Bell 407 Helicopter officially set up base at the airport, located west of the city near Rainier Trails, on April 23, and spent the next month training for the summer season.

The search and rescue base moved to Enumclaw for several reasons.

Perhaps one of the most important reasons is that the new base is more centralized between the North Cascades as well as Olympic and Mount Rainier National Parks.

“Enumclaw Airport offers the crew a direct view of the mountain, communication through radio repeaters and cell phone coverage,” Terry Wildy, Chief of interpretation, education and volunteers, said in an email interview, adding that response times to some areas at Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic National Parks have improved. South-side responses on Mount Rainier have decreased, “but only by negligible amounts,” she continued.

Additionally, the previous base, located at the Kautz Creek Helibase on the south side of Mount Rainier, was no longer meeting the needs of the search and rescue team; in recent years it has expanded to also respond to wildland fire support and other rescues around Washington state, but the crew does a lot more than that, like ferrying aquatic biologists and geologists to remote areas inside the park, helping with goat and elk surveys, and repairing radio repeaters.

The base also lost some infrastructure in the 2006 flood and it’s location in an active flood plain, Wildly said.

May is the busiest time of year for training, which explains the extra noise.

“Last week was exceptionally busy due to the Forest Service also conducting training at the Helibase. The helicopter crew is pursuing off-site training areas to minimize noise at the airport,” Wildly said. “In general, trainings will occur between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays, and mostly in May.

“The park is committed to being a good neighbor in the community,” she continued.