Scott Matthew Bligh helped to save Megan A. Rippy and André D. Doria from burning, Lakeside, California, August 21, 2010. Rippy and Doria, both 27, were climbing a steep, rugged face of El Cajon Mountain when a wildfire broke out near the mountain’s base and, fueled by vegetation, began to move up the slope toward them. As the fire advanced, trapping them, they called for help on a cellular telephone, allowing authorities to pinpoint their location. Having become aware of the climbers’ plight, Bligh, 43, a deputy sheriff who piloted a law enforcement patrol helicopter for his department’s air unit, and a coworker flew a helicopter to the mountain and, aided by one of the unit’s larger fire/rescue helicopters, located the climbers. Despite dense smoke, which restricted visibility, fire-driven turbulence, and the steep face of the slope, Bligh had to execute a landing in which only the front end of the helicopter’s skids could be braced against the mountain. With the rear of the craft extending over the slope, the other deputy left the cockpit, forfeiting his seat for the climbers. Because of limited space in the helicopter, weight considerations, and the craft’s tenuous positioning, the climbers could be rescued only one at a time. Rippy entered the helicopter and was flown to safety by Bligh, the other deputy remaining at the scene with Doria. In Bligh’s absence, those men fled advancing flames by moving laterally on the mountain. Returning shortly to the hostile environment, Bligh again maneuvered against the mountainside as embers entered the cockpit and smoke caused his eyes to tear. Doria took the passenger seat of the craft while the other deputy stood on a skid and leaned inside, Doria securing him by holding to his belt. Bligh then flew away from the mountain to safety.
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