Aerial firefighting footage, including an air tanker’s first fire drop

(Last Updated On: July 14, 2017)

This video footage that streamed live on KTVU July 11 starts with a fire at an industrial facility near Doolittle and Eden in San Leandro, California. Then the helicopter flies over to a vegetation fire in the San Jose foothills that was threatening homes at Claitor Way and Lariat Lane. It appears the fire started near structures and continued to spread through the rolling hills. The video captures many helicopter water drops, and also the first retardant drop on a real fire by Coulson’s newest air tanker, Tanker 133, an L-382G, which is a civilian variant of the C-130. (Articles tagged T-133 on Fire Aviation are here.)

Air tanker 133 fire
Air tanker 133’s first drop on a real fire.

You probably don’t have the patience to sit through an hour and a half of video, so here’s a tip. T-133 first appears at about 1:07:30. It makes two passes then drops the third time.  After that there’s many water drops from CAL FIRE and other helicopters. There are also several S-2T drops; I was able to see one number, T-83. I skipped around quite a bit looking for interesting activity.

Many of the helicopter drops after the 1:09 mark were an attempt to stop a portion of the fire that was burning in a steep canyon that had heavy fuels. Dozers were following behind the water and retardant drops, putting in fireline.

All of these images are screengrabs from the KTVU video.

helicopter water drop
A CAL FIRE helicopter makes a precision water drop, July 11, 2017.
Air tanker 133 fire
Air tanker 133’s first drop on a real fire.

I want to congratulate the KTVU camera operator. Like many of his or her brethren in California who have probably covered many, many wildfires, they zoomed in on the air tankers as they were maneuvering, but as they dropped retardant the camera operator zoomed out so you could see the entire drop and where the retardant landed. Sometimes in this video they would linger on that spot for a while so you could see the effect on the fire. I have noticed that video shot from helicopters in other parts of the country often maintain the close shot of the aircraft as it drops and flies out of the area, and you often can’t see where the retardant landed. An example is in this article; check out the video at 2:44:00 (yes, that’s 2 hours and 44 minutes).

3 thoughts on “Aerial firefighting footage, including an air tanker’s first fire drop”

  1. At 39:30 there is a “new start” within feet of a watering point for the CalFire choppers. Coincidence? Surely not a spot fire but certainly convenient to deal with. Maybe from an exhaust system of a pulled over looky loo or looky loo’s tossed cig? Or ….? Very interesting! No. I didn’t sit through the entirety of this great footage either. LR

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