Rick Patterson died in July of 1999, after a courageous two year fight with cancer. Rick took on this foe with the same attitude that he lived his life - with a toughness that belied his small stature, a total commitment to his family and friends, and his quiet humor.
Rick was known in CDF as “Mister Helitack”. He came to the Mendocino Ranger Unit’s Laytonville Helitack with the creation of the Helitack Program in 1972. There had been test programs prior to 1972 but this was the beginning of the current program. Rick and Leroy Zwicky were the first two Helitack Fire Captains at Laytonville. For those of you unfamiliar with Laytonville Helitack, it was moved to Howard Forest and renamed in 1982. Rick stayed in the Helitack Program until his promotion to Battalion Chief at the Ukiah Air Attack Base in August of 1987. He retired from CDF and the Air Program in 1994.
Howard Forest Helitack’s excellent performance and reputation since the beginning in 1972 is a direct result of Rick Patterson’s involvement. Rick personally trained a large number of Firefighters, FAE’s, Fire Captains, Battalion Chiefs, Pilots, and at least one Division Chief (me) that have or are still working in CDF’s Air Program. His influence is seen in all aspects of CDF’s current Helitack Program and its unparalleled safety record. Rick helped write portions of the original 8300 Handbook and some of the still to be issued re-write. His steady long-term fight for the addition of rescue operations laid the groundwork for CDF’s current Short-Haul Program. He was also instrumental in the creation of CDF’s helitorch equipment and policies.
Rick was widely respected by CDF Management at the Unit, Region and Sacramento levels. He was also highly respected by the CDF’s Air Program personnel. Very few people attain the stature that Rick held. When he talked, everyone stopped and listened. The original Helitack personnel were picked for their abilities and small stature. The first helicopters were weight challenged and every pound was counted. With Rick, CDF got the most bang per pound! Rick was truly the BEST of the BEST!
In 1995 Rick had a dream of using his and other retiree’s talents to support helibases on major fires. He often talked about his idea with Ken and I but unfortunately we were not close to being retirees at that time. The dream almost died with his death. Ken and I were talking about Rick while visiting his memorial on Mt. San Hedrin the Winter of 2000. Rick’s idea resurfaced and we are proud to say that it is now a reality with SILVERTIP HMS. We know that Rick is with us and proudly dedicate “our” business to him.