When disaster strikes, like it did last week with the massive flooding to the south, resources are quickly spread thin.
Luckily for High River, Blackfalds was one of the communities not devastated by flooding and as such Mustang Helicopters were available to lend a hand in rescue and cleanup operations.
Mitch Brown, assistant operations manager and pilot for Mustang Helicopters was one of the pilots initially involved in reconnaissance and rescue in the High River flood.
Upon arriving on scene, it was obvious the scale of the flooding was massive, said Brown. He added that, while some areas of the community where untouched by water at that time, the flooded river was expanding rapidly and showed no signs of slowing.
Brown said he hadn’t been following news reports of the flooding and was first made aware of the situation in High River when his sister-in-law, who lives in Okotoks and works for the RCMP, contacted him suggesting he get in touch with High River RCMP to see if there was any way Mustang Helicopters could help with the flooding.
After speaking to High River RCMP, who gratefully accepted Mustang’s aid, Brown was bound for High River as the pilot of one of the two helicopters dispatched by Mustang to aid in the flood rescues.
Initially, Brown and his colleagues assisted by doing reconnaissance work, acting as an ‘eye in the sky’ for the grounded emergency crews, helping direct them to people in need of assistance.
Mustang was also involved in transporting those individuals themselves, he added. Brown said that between the two aircraft, an estimated 600 people were moved to safety within the first two days of Mustang’s involvement in the operation.
Some of the people needing assistance had already moved to what they thought was safe ground. But, as Brown said, what appears like a safe location does not always remain as such for very long with such rapid flooding.
“You don’t really know where safe ground is.”
A veteran helicopter pilot of 20-plus years, Brown has worked flood relief before and was involved in flood relief operation in Winnipeg in 1997.
However, he said the situation in High River escalated much quicker than other floods he has worked.
Whereas victims in past floods may have had a day or so of warning before needing to be evacuated, this was not the case in High River.
“This was, hey, there is water coming through the front door, we need to get out.”
While rescue is not as pressing an issue in High River any longer, Mustang still has helicopters working in High River, said Brown.
He said they are currently working to restore a number of services like power, gas and other infrastructure.