Air attack key in halting Canyon 2 Fire spread near Anaheim

(Above: The red dots represent heat detected on the Canyon 2 Fire by a satellite at 2:54 a.m. October 10. The yellow dots were detected at 12:54 p.m. October 9. The Canyon Fire started September 25, and the spread was stopped a few days later. Click to enlarge)

A couple days ago, Fire Aviation readers made a reasonable ask to news media filming water and retardant drops: Pan the camera out.

You’ve been heard.

A television crew with KTLA in Southern California got a great vantage of Tanker 911, a DC-10 operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, making a run over the hills east of Anaheim during efforts to contain the Canyon 2 Fire.

Check it out:

The Canyon 2 Fire started Monday morning in the Anaheim Hills area.

By Tuesday, Anaheim Fire & Rescue reported the blaze to be at 7,500 acres. About 1,100 firefighters were assigned to the incident, with 14 helicopters and six planes assisting from the air.

As of Wednesday morning, it had grown to 8,000 acres with containment at 40 percent — a shift from Santa Ana winds from the east to coastal sea breezes from the west aided containment efforts.

Roughly two-dozen structures were damaged or destroyed, but no serious injuries were reported.

Resources stretched as wildfires erupt across California

Firefighters on the ground and in the air battled a destructive wildfire near Anaheim on Monday, the latest in what has emerged as a particularly active fire week across California.

The Canyon Fire 2 started Monday morning in the Anaheim Hills area.

By Tuesday morning, Anaheim Fire & Rescue reported the blaze to be at 7,500 acres. 1,100 firefighters were assigned to the incident, with 14 helicopters and six planes assisting from the air.

It was just 5 percent contained.

Shifting winds were top of mind for crews on Tuesday.

Of note, the coastal marine layer that typically brings with it low-lying clouds and higher humidities was apparent Tuesday morning. However, the boundary line was pronounced, and the area of the Canyon Fire 2 was still experiencing single-digit relative humidity levels, courtesy of the Santa Ana Winds.

Of course, most of the country’s attention was focused on Northern California, where a series of fires charred upward of 80,000 acres in 18 hours — head over to Wildfire Today for details on that.

A 747 Supertanker was among those resources assisting teams on the ground. By 6 p.m. PDT on Monday the aircraft had conducted six sorties, dropping over 110,000 gallons of retardant mostly in the Napa area. Many other air tankers and helicopters were also very busy slowing down the fires, where possible, with water and retardant.

By Tuesday, “we’re gonna be as stretched as we can be,” said Steven Beech, an incident commander with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, according to the LA Times. 

Man killed during mulch operation in Utah identified; headed charter helicopter company

The man killed during a mulching operation in Utah over the weekend has been identified as the brother-in-law of a state Senator and the owner of Provo-area helicopter company.

Bryan Burr, 58, was killed Saturday October 7 during Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) operations on the Brian Head Fire in southwest Utah. Mr. Burr, from Alpine, Utah, was giving directions to a helicopter dropping straw mulch when he was struck on the head.

Mr. Burr is listed as the president and co-owner of Mountain West Helicopters LLC, according to his Linkedin page. A call to the telephone number listed for the helicopter charter service directed to the voicemail of Mr. Burr.

“Bryan was a good man, a religious person who valued his family very much, and those around him,” wrote Facebook user Thierry Richards, who said in a post he used to work for Mr. Burr. “He treated me kindly and straight forwardly. May he rest in peace.”

The Salt Lake Tribune newspaper reported Mr. Burr was the brother-in-law of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Additional details were not immediately available.

The Brian Head Fire burned over 63,000 acres in late June.  On August 25 BAER teams began dropping 3,200 tons of wheat straw from helicopter nets to cover the soil surface. The additional ground cover increases the germination of seeds dropped earlier and helps absorb raindrop impact lessening water runoff potential.

During runoff mitigation work on Saturday, the pilot saw the injured man and contacted others who called 911. Brian Head Marshall Jeff Morgan was flown to the remote site off State Route 143 about 1:45 p.m. and determined that the man had died.

“It was determined he likely died as a result of blunt force trauma from falling debris during the airdrop,” the Iron County Sheriff’s Office said, though it is unclear whether he was hit by straw mulch or debris from a nearby tree as the straw fell.

Since an aircraft was involved in the fatality the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the accident.

Map of the Brian Head Fire in southwest Utah. The red line was the perimeter at 2:30 a.m. MDT June 29, 2017. The white line was the perimeter 24 hours earlier.
Map of the Brian Head Fire in southwest Utah. The red line was the perimeter at 2:30 a.m. MDT June 29, 2017. The white line was the perimeter 24 hours earlier.

Supertanker to assist with California wine country wildfires

(Above: The 747 SuperTanker drops on the Palmer Fire south of Calimesa and Yucaipa in southern California, September 2, 2017. Photo by Cy Phenice, used with permission).

A 747 Supertanker will assist firefighters battling a series of fires that erupted overnight Sunday in California’s wine country.

Global Supertanker announced Monday morning it would assist with efforts to battle the Atlas Fire in Napa County, California. The fire broke out about 9:20 p.m. Sunday and quickly burned approximately 5,000 acres, fanned by high winds, CAL FIRE reported.  

The Atlas Fire is among a number of blazes that started Sunday night and Monday morning, forcing thousands of residents from their homes and leaving crews scrambling through the night to get a handle on the sheer number of fire starts.

The largest, the Tubbs Fire, scorched in excess of 20,000 acres within just a few hours, Santa Rosa Fire reported. The fast-moving fire forced the evacuation of area hospitals, closed schools and led officials to recall all city employees to help staff the emergency operations center.

Details about damages or injuries were not immediately available by daybreak Monday.

Colorado county approves first-of-its-kind deal with Global SuperTanker Services

Above: 747 Supertanker in Chile, January 26, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

A Colorado county on Tuesday approved a deal that sets the stage for a response from the largest firefighting aircraft in the world if and when major wildfires flare up near Denver, marking the culmination of a first-of-its-kind contract.

Commissioners in Douglas County on Tuesday approved the one-year, $200,000 deal with Global SuperTanker Services LLC that gives the county access to the mammoth Boeing 747-400 aircraft that can drop roughly 20,000 gallons of water or retardant — nearly double the capacity of its closest rival, the DC-10.

The deal is unique in that it gives the 800-square-mile county situated between Denver and Colorado Springs exclusive access to the SuperTanker.

“Douglas County is establishing a model for wildland fire-prone municipalities to follow,” Bob Soleberg, senior vice president and program manager for Global SuperTanker, said in a statement Tuesday night to Wildfire Today and Fire Aviation. “Their planning is comprehensive and designed to protect lives, property and the natural resources.”

The county’s office of emergency management requested approval of the deal, citing “ongoing dry conditions in and around Douglas County and coupled with the limited air resources in the region for the purpose of wildland fire suppression,” according to county documents proposing the contract.

drop Tanker 944 747-400
The first drop from Tanker 944, the 747-400 operated by Global Supertanker.
The Denver Post first reported elements of the proposed contract on Monday.

Director of Emergency Management Tim Johnson told the newspaper the move was part of a multi-pronged effort ensuring adequate air power existed when fires ignited. From The Post: 

Douglas County has firefighting contracts with Castle Rock-based Rampart Helicopter Service, Broomfield-based HeliQwest, Loveland-based Trans Aero Ltd., and 10 Tanker Air Carrier, which uses DC-10s carrying more than 11,000-gallons capacity on board. It also has access to state and federal firefighting air resources.

“We need redundancies in our abilities during fire season because the resources may not always be available — we want to be able to go down a list,” Johnson said. “We’re leaning forward in terms of preparedness.”

Specific terms and conditions of the contract are available beginning on page 382 of this county commissioners’ board meeting packet, available here.

Avid readers of this website might remember that the SuperTanker made headlines earlier this year when it responded to Chile. Fire Aviation’s own Bill Gabbert embedded with that crew for more than a week and chronicled the trip online.

747 SuperTanker
Local firefighters keep portable tanks full of water that will be used to refill the 747 SuperTanker. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Air resources assisting crews working San Diego-area Gate Fire

Air resources continued to play a major role in containing the Gate Fire burning in San Diego County since Saturday.

The fire grew to 1,500 acres by Sunday morning, though crews made progress overnight, aided by cooler temperatures and higher humidity levels, Cal Fire reported. No structures have been damaged, and no injuries were reported.

Five airtankers and three helicopters were making drops on fire at one point Saturday, said Cal Fire Capt. Isaac Sanchez, according to the San Diego Union Tribune newspaper. Fire crews from several agencies were helping on the ground.

Evacuation orders lasted into Sunday.

Colorado studying SEAT-dropped water enhancer effectiveness during 2017 wildfire season

Above: State-contracted SEAT T-831 drops sunset orange FireIce HVO-F®. Courtesy photo.

Efforts are underway in Colorado to better evaluate how water enhancers delivered from a single engine air tanker can be more effective than retardants in fighting wildfires.

Colorado historically has only loaded long-term retardant into SEATs. These chemical concentrates are mixed with water and alter fuels so they do not support combustion. Retardant is dropped adjacent to — or ahead of — the fire to create a chemically induced fire break at its perimeter.

Molecular bonds from water enhancers, however, slow evaporation by creating a thermal protective coating. SEAT drops of water enhancers are mainly used in direct attack to slow or halt the fire’s rate of spread long enough for ground resources to access the fireline and mop up or supplement the knockdown process.

These gels have generally been limited in use in recent years, and field testing has been minimal. Information about water enhancers’ availability, use and effectiveness is sparse at best.

The study, lasting throughout the 2017 wildfire season in Colorado, has the following objectives, according to the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control:  

  1. Observe and evaluate drops of water enhancers on wildfires and record information about 1) whether the water enhancer stopped or slowed the forward advance of the fire; 2)whether the water enhancer reduced fire intensity to a sufficient level for ground crews to manage the fire; and 3) whether the water enhancer persists on the surface fuels long enough to prevent hotspots from redeveloping or the fire from burning through the drop.
  2. Determine whether water enhancers delivered from a SEAT are effective on wildfires in Colorado. Effectiveness will be viewed in terms of how effective the products were in achieving the desired suppression objectives.
  3. Collect as much data as possible regarding the effectiveness of water enhancers used during initial attack and on emerging fires.
  4. Share lessons learned from the evaluations with interested parties, including cooperators and researchers.
  5. Test and evaluate newly developed ground-based mixing/batching equipment to assess the efficiency of the mixing and loading processes and the ability of the equipment to reduce response times.

“SEATs loaded with water enhancers will respond to fires on State and private land, as well as to fires under the jurisdiction of BLM, the National Park Service, and USFS. Mixing will be at the recommended ratios in the USFS Qualified Products List for each product on all drops. For the first load on each fire, State and Federally contracted SEATs will respond to the incident with water enhancer unless the ordering unit clearly specifies the need for LTR instead.

Decisions regarding where, when and how to apply a particular aerial retardant or suppressant are typically under the discretion of the Incident Commander, so if at any time the Incident Commander or the Air Tactical Group Supervisor feels that the enhancers are not performing as desired, the Incident Commander can immediately order that the SEATs be loaded with retardant.

The three water enhancers being evaluated in the study are: FireIce HVO-F, BlazeTamer 380, and Thermo-Gel 200L — each is approved by the U.S. Forest Service for use in SEATs.

The Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting, with support from the Division of Fire Prevention and Control’s Aviation Unit and the Bureau of Land Management, is conducting the study.

After weighing input from researchers and firefighters, investigators will compile a preliminary and final report about the project’s findings.

Nevada Forestry and National Guard helicopter bucket training

Personnel from Nevada this week conducted aerial fire suppression and water bucket training on the heels of a wet winter and ahead of what could quickly turn into a very active summer for area firefighters.

Training throughout the week included several scenarios that mirrored real situations.

“In advance of what promises to be a challenging fire suppression season, this training aims to improve interagency crew cooperation and interaction, especially communication between ground and air crews,” National Guard spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka said, according to the Record-Courier newspaper. 

A bucket drop test during training with the Nevada Division of Forestry and Nevada National Guard. Courtesy photo.
A bucket drop test during training with the Nevada Division of Forestry and Nevada National Guard. Courtesy photo.