Unmanned aircraft system goes on test flight over Paradise fire

The National Park Service announced on its Facebook page on Friday than an unmanned aircraft system, otherwise known as a drone, took a test flight over the Paradise fire at Olympic National Park to gather infrared data.

Here’s the park’s statement from the Facebook page: 

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An operational test of UAS on the Paradise fire at Olympic National Park took place recently. Learn more about the purpose of the flights and check out the footage.

Unmanned Aircraft System was a Success on the Paradise Fire

For the past week an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) was utilized on the Paradise Fire. The system was demonstrating possible applications in wildland fire management and suppression. UAS’s can supplement manned aircraft, especially at times of reduced visibility due to smoky conditions and at night when manned firefighting aircraft may be limited in flying.

The primary goal of the UAS on the Paradise Fire was to gather infrared information. This information assisted fire officials in pinpointing the fires perimeter and identifying areas of intense heat. The extremely large old growth trees in the area of the Paradise Fire create a thick canopy that makes mapping the perimeter and observing hotspots from the air very difficult without infrared capabilities.

This was an operational demonstration provided by Insitu, Inc. with no direct cost to the government. The demonstration was one of a series of ongoing missions to further UAS use on wildland fire in national parks and is part of an interagency strategy for UAS integration into wildland fire support. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) allowed the use of their land for the aircraft launch and recovery site. The purpose of the demonstration was to show the capabilities and effectiveness of unmanned aircraft technology on wildland fires. The ultimate goal for UAS use on wildland fire is to supply incident management teams (IMT) with real-time data products, and information regarding fire size and growth, fire behavior, fuels, and areas of heat concentration. Additional applications, such as search and rescue and animal surveys, may be explored.

As the fire season continues and more wildfires burn throughout the west, manned aviation resources are spread thin across the country and have become very difficult to acquire. In addition to supplementing aerial resources, UAS’s are quieter than manned aircraft, use less fuel, and present a much lower risk to employees.

This was not the first UAS to be flown in the Olympic National Park. The park partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey in 2012 to monitor sediment transport in the Elwha River as part of the Elwha restoration project using a Raven UAS.

The ScanEagle UAS that was flown on the Paradise Fire weighed approximately 50 lbs with a wingspan of 10.2 feet. The UAS was only operated within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) temporary flight restriction (TFR) area. The TFR has been lifted.

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Aerial attack on the Country Club Fire in northern California

The description from YouTube:

On August 16, Cindy spotted a fire on our property in the Feather River Canyon. It had just gotten started, was centered only a 125 yards south of us and 150 yards down into the canyon. CDF responded with multiple bombers, choppers, 15 fire trucks and 4 fire crews. They hit it hard and fast, yet took until almost sunset to suppress. Inmate fire crews worked on it all night. Wow. Hope you enjoy the video, eat your heart out Top Gun, wait till you see these fliers.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Ravi.

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Erikson Inc. aircrane part of deal to help fight fires in Turkey

S-64E Aircrane, Erickson Inc.

S-64E Aircrane, Erickson Inc.

Erickson Inc. will be sending an S-64E Aircrane to Turkey to help fight wildfires, as a part of an agreement with Pan Aviation, Erickson announced on Aug. 24.

The Aircrane will be working around Istanbul and in the surrounding areas of Turkey for 365 days a year for two years. The contact was signed after a 10-month trial period with Istanbul. The aircraft will be based at the Ataturk International Airport, and will be available upon special request to areas outside of Istanbul.

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Large helibase set up in Colville, Washington

With the FAA control tower in the background and a Bell 205 A1 ++ in the foreground, a Bell 206 L4 carrying members of Swan Valley Helitack from the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, take off for a mission on the Carpenter Road Fire.

With the FAA control tower in the background and a Bell 205 A1 ++ in the foreground, a Bell 206 L4 carrying members of Swan Valley Helitack from the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, take off for a mission on the Carpenter Road Fire.

Tom Story, who is in Washington documenting some of the wildfire activity, spent time on Monday at the Hopps Helibase near Colville, WA. While in Washington. Here is his dispatch from Colville on Aug. 25, 2015.

See more of Tom’s photos from Washington on www.wildfiretoday.com

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Walker’s Area Command, based in Colville, WA, in August of the 2015 fire season, has setup a large helibase on farmland south of town. The property is owned by the Hopps family, thus giving the base it’s name. The facility allows both civilian contract helicopters a base and a location for military ships to stage until needed on the numerous fires in the area.

At Hopps this morning; August 25th, were a pair of Bell 205 A1++, two AStar A350s, one Bell 206 L4 as well as one of Columbia Helicopters Boeing Vertols joined by a couple of Blackhawks and a Chinook flying in from their overnight base at Fairchild A.F.B outside of Spokane.

The Federal Aviation Administration is operating a temporary tower at the helibase since up to 20 helicopters are anticipated to be using the base as the fire season continues in northeast Washington.

An Army Chinook lumbers overhead on final approach for a landing at the Hopps Helibase over a Columbia Helicopters Boeing Vertol.

An Army Chinook lumbers overhead on final approach for a landing at the Hopps Helibase over a Columbia Helicopters Boeing Vertol.

Members of Swan Valley Helitack from the Caribou-Targhee National Forest prepare for a mission to the Carpenter Road Fire near Colville, WA August 25, 2015.

Members of Swan Valley Helitack from the Caribou-Targhee National Forest prepare for a mission to the Carpenter Road Fire near Colville, WA August 25, 2015.

With the FAA control tower in the background, crews prepare helicopters at the Hopps Helibase for the day's missions on large fires around Colville, WA.

With the FAA control tower in the background, crews prepare helicopters at the Hopps Helibase for the day’s missions on large fires around Colville, WA.

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Montana Governor complains that some state helicopters are barred from working on USFS fires

Below is an excerpt from an article at Newsmax:

Montana’s governor on Friday [August 21] called on federal officials to lift what he called nonsensical restrictions that bar the state from using some of its helicopters to fight nearly a dozen major wildfires burning largely out of control across the state. Governor Steve Bullock, who declared a state of emergency earlier this week authorizing use of National Guard troops and aircraft along with state firefighters and helicopters, said in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the federal rules were unnecessary obstacles to fighting the fires.

“I am doing my part to mobilize every available firefighting resource at my disposal, and make them available to all fire protection agencies,” Bullock said in the letter. “I encourage you to do your part by directing leadership within your respective agencies to rescind this unnecessary and artificial restriction on Montana aircraft as soon as possible.”

Bullock spokesman Mike Wessler said U.S. fire managers barred the use of UH-1H helicopters over federal land because they have objected to modifications to the state’s fleet that made them faster and able to carry more water.

The Democratic governor added, “I continue to be frustrated by this unwarranted and artificial limitation on interagency use of our aircraft.”

On August 22 we asked the U.S. Forest Service for their reaction to the story. On August 24  we were given this statement issued by their Northern Region:

The Northern Region of the Forest Service values the professionalism and fire-fighting support it receives from its partnership with the State of Montana. The Forest Service and the State of Montana Department [sic] have different standards and regulations to which each must adhere. Federal agencies, including the Forest Service, follow federal operational aviation safety standards that prescribe minimum specifications for the types of aircraft. These performance specifications provide an industry recognized margin of safety.

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Croman S-61A helicopter experiences hard landing

S-61A hard landing Croman

File photo of a Croman helicopter taken in 2014. This is not the helicopter that experienced the hard landing August 19, 2015. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

At approximately 7:15 p.m. PT on August 19, a Croman S-61A helicopter working on the Eldorado Fire eight miles southeast of Unity, Oregon experienced a hard landing. The incident occurred on the west portion of the fire near King Creek in the vicinity of a medical unit serving firefighters on the line.

According to the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), two persons were on board. When the helicopter came to rest, both exited the helicopter and signaled that they were unhurt by waving to the medical unit. While no significant injuries were apparent, both individuals were transported by ambulance to St. Alphonsus Ontario Medical Center for further evaluation.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Baker City Herald:

…Gary Wiltrout, 67, of Boise, said he and his co-pilot Scott Talada, 65, of Baker City, had been flying for about six hours on Wednesday dumping water on the Eldorado fire when the engine failure occurred about 7:15 p.m.

They were taking water from a pond known as Murphy’s dip, near Highway 26 leaving Unity. Wiltrout said that up to that point, there was no indication there was anything wrong with the helicopter.“We had just picked up a bucket of water, then the engine rpm changed and we started losing altitude,” Wiltrout said. “I got rid of the water right away.”

Then, they lost an engine.

“I tried to make it out with one engine,” Wiltrout said.

The FAA reports there was “substantial damage” to the aircraft.

The helicopter has a Call When Needed contract with the U.S. Forest Service, but at the time of the accident it was working under the operational control of the ODF on one of their fires.

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