In this video you will see one of Erickson Aero Tankers’ DC-7s making a retardant drop on the Calgrove Fire. At 6:15 p.m. PT today CAL FIRE estimated the fire, burning in SoCal north of the intersection of the 210 and I-5 freeways, had blackened about 100 acres.
Tanker 60 is sporting a new paint job, adopting Erickson’s new design that has been seen on their MD-87s and their other DC-7, Tanker 66.
We apologize for the quality of the video; we shot it off the television with a cell phone. Credit goes to ABC Los Angeles Channel 7.
Ryan Coulter took these photos of two of the DC-10 air tankers making drops on the Washington Fire, June 22, 2015, near Markleeville, California. The photo above is Tanker 911, and Tanker 912 is below. The DC-10s carry 11,600 gallons of retardant, compared to the 2,000 to 4,000 gallons other large air tankers can hold.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources is adding an eighth UH-1 Huey to their helicopter fleet. Their goal is to have six operational helicopters at any given time during the fire season. King5 has a video report.
It is interesting how the color scheme on the helicopters is similar to that of the Seattle Seahawks.
Reno-Stead air attack base prepares for fire season
KTVN has a story about how the BLM air attack base at Reno-Stead is getting ready for the wildfire season.
Wired writes about smokejumpers
Wired has a lengthy article about how smokejumpers and hand crews in Redding, California are training and preparing for the fire season.
‘DREAM JOB’: Firefighters in California have already battled more than 1,100 wildfires this year. Desiree Horton is one of just twenty full-time CAL FIRE helicopter pilots and she’s breaking ground for women high above the front lines. NBC’s Hallie Jackson reports tonight.
An excellent photo of a Los Angeles County Blackhawk (“Firehawk”) helicopter dropping on the Sierra Fire May 4 near Santa Clarita in southern California. The suspected preliminary cause was a burning vehicle. Firefighters stopped the fire after it burned a few acres of brush.
The article below was written by Johnny Yount. Photos were taken by Bob Martinez.
Times are changing in the wildfire business as quickly as the global weather. The annual National Guard and CAL FIRE training was conducted April 10 through 12 at the CAL FIRE Academy in Ione and Lake Pardee in Amador County. The Army National Guard has been in partnership with CAL FIRE for over five decades fighting fire with helicopters. The C 130 (MAFFS) provided by the Air National Guard at Channel Islands have been delivering retardant since the 1970’s. In an effort to protect the people and resources of California every branch of the military in California can provide aerial delivery of water or retardant. This is not unique to California, as many states have increasingly become involved in using state guard units to augment firefighting forces.
In the early 1990’s a plan called Spirit of Cooperation was put together by CAL FIRE to begin working much more closely with the State’s military helicopter units to benefit and provide a safer fire work environment for both CAL FIRE and the Military.
Meetings where held, issues identified, and a plan of action initiated with a mutual understanding of what would be required to enhance the capability of both the Guard and CAL FIRE simultaneously.
There were five components to the plan. One of the components identified was the addition of a military helicopter manager who would fly at all times with the helicopter and provide tactical and logistical support to the military air crew. This simple step, providing an air program qualified helicopter manager to be part of the flight crew, maximizes the capability of the helicopter to move around the State much like a fixed wing air tanker.
The training at the CAL FIRE Academy was a refresher for most in attendance. The majority of the students are CAL FIRE aerial fire fighters, air attack and helitack Captains. Each military manager represents years of air program understanding and airborne firefighting experience. Also involved in the program are aerial fire fighters from Orange County Fire Authority and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
When a Guard helicopter is activated, a manager is assigned to a specific copter and crew. The Blackhawks have a crew of three military and one CAL FIRE military manager. The Chinooks have a crew of four military and one CAL FIRE manager. In addition to the airborne helicopter assets, Guard and CAL FIRE liaisons are assigned to the activation. Maintenance teams, fuel tenders and other military support staff are also assigned as needed to assure that the activation runs smoothly. As mentioned, the Guard helicopters move around the State more like a fixed wing air tanker than a helicopter. It would not be uncommon for a Guard helicopter to be working a fire on the Modoc National Forest (Alturas Airport), get released, head south to a new emerging fire on the Angeles National Forest, remain overnight in Bakersfield, and then be reassigned to a fire in Ventura County.
During transit the Guard helicopters are in contact with the three primary CAL FIRE Operation Centers at Sacramento, Riverside and Redding. New initial attack fires or change of assignment are common. This fire season the Guard facilities at Los Alamitos, Stockton and Mather will be providing as many as five Chinooks and five Blackhawks.
CAL FIRE will hold similar training with the United States Marine Corps and Navy.
The Orange County Fire Authority now has four helicopters ready to operate at night. Beginning in March, the southern California agency began a six-month pilot program in which their four helicopters rotate 24-hour shifts to cover day and night.
In 2008 the OCFA made the decision to begin using helicopters at night to fight fire. They even purchased $25 million worth of helicopters specially outfitted for night flying, but a dispute with their pilots’ union grounded them at night. The agency spent $100,000 on night-vision goggles and training, but union officials and department management grappled over the technicalities of the program.
…The benefit of night flights was shown on Sept. 4, 2010, when the fire authority sent a helicopter into a nighttime blaze for the first time. The crew made 12 water drops, and helped contain a 10-acre fire in less than three hours. The flight crew was in the parking lot on its way home when they got the a call around 7:56 p.m. for assistance.
The [six-month trial program] comes six years after an independent auditor recommended the fire authority could improve after the 2007 Santiago Fire that scorched more than 28,000 acres and destroyed 14 homes in Orange County.
Because of budgetary and safety concerns, round-the-clock air operations took a back seat to other issues in the six years since adopting night-vision technology, said Gene Hernandez, vice chairman of the Fire Authority’s board of directors.
“There was significant changes occurring in the organization that we needed to address, and this wasn’t a front-burner issue,” Hernandez said, citing budget cuts at the time.
The extra coverage allows the fire agency to respond to the 25 percent of calls for air assistance that used to fall outside the previous 12-hour duty day, according to a staff report. Last year, the agency’s helicopters responded to 196 calls total.
The helicopters sometimes still flew at night, but only when on-call crews responded back to work.
Under the new program, one aircraft will be staffed with a pilot and crew chief, with a firefighter/paramedic rescuer added on the weekends, at an annual cost of $1.5 million.