ELLENSBURG, Wash.--It's the first joint helicopter training of its kind.
Chelan, King, Kittitas, Snohomish and Spokane counties swapped skills and resources to prepare for any large scale emergency.
We depend on helicopters for almost every type of disaster; fires, floods, earthquakes and large scale search and rescue missions. Yet only a handful of counties in the state have the ability to fly.
"There are so very few helicopter assets in the state," said Deputy Bill Quistorf with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office. "The counties that you see participating here, we are the only four counties in the State of Washington that own and operate helicopters."
That's why law enforcement said it's so important for neighboring counties to work together and get familiar with their assets.
"If you don't know that Snohomish County has water buckets available, the counties on this side won't know to call that resource," said Deputy Quistorf.
"Just being able to get together, meet all the pilots, the flight crews and know who we're working with out in the field and in the mountains, just builds a better relationship," said Corporal Ellis Nale with the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies said out of the three medium-lift helicopters in the region, only one has a water bucket and two have rescue hoists. Another is grounded indefinitely in Chelan since there are no funds to operate it.
"Last year, during the big fires in Kittitas and Chelan County that Bellevue sat on the ground even though it was capable of conducting water drops and firefighters," said Deputy Quistorf. "They didn't have the funding to operate it."
Deputies said the newly formed group called "Cascades Mountain Consortium" will not only strengthen relationships and open up resources, it will also cut down on costs. Deputies tell us the faster a helicopter can help knock down a fire, less money will be spent on firefighting operations.