Everyday Heroes | Eye of the Sky, Pilot
In Wisconsin, United States
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Welcome to the Heath Van Handel Memorial Forest. Coordinates will bring you to the forest entrance where you will find some parking and signage about this firefighter. To find the final, simply fill in the blanks of the combined press releases below. Final cords are N44˚AB.CDE W88˚FG.HIJ
This 3E-acre forest that contains an arboretum of high quality aspen trees will be dedicated Saturday, OctoberAH to the memory of a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation pilot who lost his life in a aircraft accident while performing the duties of fire air attack pilot helping direct firefighters on the ground to suppress the April 200B Pittsville fire in Wood County.
The DNR says the pilot, 3D-year-old Heath Van Handel, of Appleton, worked for the agency for three years. He was the only person on board the small plane and was pronounced dead at the scene. Van Handel was a former commercial pilot and flight instructor. He is the first DNR pilot to lose his life in the line of duty in state history. Van Handel's job was to help spot grass fires that crews on the ground were fighting.
The dedication of the Heath Van Handel Memorial Forest was held at Ap.m. on the Memorial Forest site. The Natural Resources Board recognized the life and dedication to duty of deceased Department of Natural Resources pilot, Heath Van Handel, by naming this parcel of DNR managed land west of Appleton the “Heath Van Handel Memorial Forest”. A memorial plaque at the site note that Van Handel “was living his dream of working as a conservation pilot for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.”
Sergeant Shawn Becker says a property owner nearby was burning garbage when the fire got out of control and spread to the woods. Becker also says the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the scene Thursday morning to start its crash investigation. The crash happened near the Clark and Wood County line at 2:2Dp.m. Wednesday afternoon.
Witness Richard L. Jacobson says, "I could see him in there and within a split second it was done. I jumped out and one of the firefighters was real close," Jacobson says. "I hollered to him that the plane crashed. The rest of them were in the woods fighting the fire. They all came out, but there was nothing anyone could do." Van Handel had been in the air working to protect those same firefighters on the ground. It was a group effort to put out a small forest fire. "The concussion was like JG sticks of dynamite and parts were flying everywhere," Jacobson tells us.
A DNR spokesman says the Cessna 337, twin-engine aircraft was owned by the state Department of Administration and leased to the DNR. Ed Culhane says the plane was up to date on its maintenance checks and Van Handel was an experienced pilot. He had been with the department since 2006 and was a former flight instructor.
Take some time to explore the forest and the land beyond, but be careful if you are out cache hunting while others are animal hunting. Also give yourself a few minutes to read over the signage at the entrance. It contains some useful fire prevention tips, like keeping a minimum distance of F0 feet from your tent to your campfire while camping. It also shows an interesting aerial shot of the I-letter airplane acronym in action, dousing a fire next to a C(-2)-car train. An ounce of prevention can go a long way to keep firefighters like Heath out of harms way.
Thank you Heath, for your service and sacrifice.
The Geocache Notification Form has been submitted to the Wisconsin DNR.
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Last Updated: on 3/19/2015 10:05:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time (5:05 PM GMT)
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum