“Following a dispatch from the Plumas County Sheriff, the Plumas National Forest Hotshots and Plumas County Search & Rescue responded to a single engine plane incident in Indian Creek near Indian Falls, early this [Friday] morning [May 18]. Thankfully, the plane’s occupants suffered only minor injuries. The skilled firefighters, ensuring there was no wildland fire threat, provided initial patient care, directed the ambulance to the scene and then transferred care to the ambulance staff. The California Highway Patrol provided traffic control on CA Hwy 89. We’re grateful to have our first responders when we need them! A big thanks to all of you!”
After several false starts over several years, CAL FIRE selected a variant of the Blackhawk to replace its aging fleet of 12 Super Huey firefighting helicopters, but that acquisition is stalled. In what appeared to be the final hurdle an administrative law judge ruled in December against a protest filed by a competing company clearing the way for CAL FIRE to purchase up to 12 new Sikorsky S-70i’s (Firehawks), from Air Methods/United Rotorcraft (AMUR).
When the effort began years ago to replace the fleet of aircraft that is now at the end of its useful life, the legislature was told each new helicopter would cost around $12 million, but they realized the price could escalate. The new Firehawks will run $24 million each with the additional features recently added by CAL FIRE and the Department of General Services.
Below is an excerpt from an article in the Sacramento Bee:
The Governor’s Office and Cal Fire are ready to start buying the new machines. “We believe we have provided the Legislature with all the necessary and requested information to move forward on this project,” Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer said.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jim. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
After I visited Airstrike’s hanger last week to check on the progress on their P3, Tanker 23, I stopped by the Helimax Aviation facility just down the road. Two of their CH-47D Chinooks were undergoing maintenance in the hangar.
Helimax has two Chinooks on Forest Service exclusive use contracts and two on call when needed contracts, plus two others. Their mandatory availability period begins in early May for the EU ships. Upon mobilization they travel with two pilots, a non-rated crewmember, four mechanics, and one fuel truck driver hauling up to 6,000 gallons. As shown in one of the photos below they also load into the cargo bay a four-wheeler with an attached trailer for hauling the 2,600-gallon Bambi Bucket. The Chinook can cruise at 140 knots (161 mph), pretty fast for a helicopter, and has an endurance of about three hours.
To see large versions of the photos, click on one of the small images immediately below.
In addition to the static display, three air tankers made demonstration drops.
Above: Air Spray’s Air Tanker 481, a Lockheed Electra L188 on static display at McClellan, March 12, 2018.
On March 12, 2018 two large busloads of attendees at the Aerial Firefighting Conference at Sacramento McClellan Airport were transported from the meeting facility to a nearby ramp where more than a dozen aircraft were on static display. At the conference two years ago the lead bus driver got lost on the three-block drive, but thankfully there were no mishaps this year.
In addition to the static display, three air tankers made demonstration drops with water, one RJ85 and two Fire Boss Single Engine Air Tankers.
Click on one of the small images immediately below to see large versions.
Barry Lloyd describes the coming transition from Hueys
Wednesday morning at the Aerial Firefighting North America 2018 conference in Sacramento, Barry Lloyd, CAL FIRE’s Helicopter Program manager spoke about some of their operational objectives and the possible transition to Sikorsky Firehawk ships.
California’s legislature has approved funding for replacing the 12 Vietnam War era Hueys with new helicopters. The contract has not yet been signed, but all indications are that the purchase will actually occur.
In Mr. Lloyd’s presentation he described the helicopter program and some of the specifications that led to the selection of the winning vendor.
One of his main points was that CAL FIRE’s goal is to respond to every fire in the state for which they have suppression responsibility, within 20 minutes, and contain 95 percent of all fires before they grow to 10 acres.
(UPDATE: we initially had approval to include about half a dozen slides from Mr. Lloyd’s presentation, but on March 16 higher level personnel in CAL FIRE rescinded that approval and asked that we delete them.)