Women are increasingly common in the front lines of firefighting.
In the wildfires that burned large swaths of northwest Nebraska's Pine Ridge, Nicole Ludwig piloted a helicopter that ferried supplies, provided reconnaissance and carried Gov. Dave Heineman on his aerial inspection of the region.
Her helicopter, a Bell 206L4 Long Ranger, is used to fight fires in the summer and in search-and-rescue operations in the winter. She and her crew have been busy, given this extraordinary summer of drought.
“This was a big, aggressive fire,” she said of the Pine Ridge. “Usually fire grows during the day, but the slop-overs, runs and growth on this one happened at night. It is just so dry and fires grow really big, really fast. I'm glad there were not more houses lost on this fire. The firefighters did a good job saving them.”
Ludwig hails from Switzerland. Her husband, who is from Germany, is her relief pilot. She flies for Hillsboro Aviation out of Hillsboro, Ore.
She said she prefers helicopters over planes because they are more versatile and allow her to run missions that require flying to hard-to-reach areas.
Source: Nebraska National Forests & Grasslands