The two C-130 MAFFS at the Channel Islands National Guard base in California are being activated to help deal with wildfires in the northern part of the state. Earlier today 17 California National Guard helicopters were also activated. More details are at Wildfire Today.
Minden’s Tanker 48 experienced a hydraulic problem while working the Shirley Fire in California and diverted to Fresno, California where upon landing, the nose gear collapsed. Thankfully there were no injuries. Mike Ferris, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, described it as “a minor mishap”.
More details are at Wildfire Today, along with a history of similar air tanker accidents.
(Revised on June 7 to include the pilot in the list of people who received awards.)
Four park rangers and a helicopter pilot at Yosemite National Park received awards on May 8, 2014 from Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell for an incredible rescue which required suspending personnel 150 feet below a helicopter that was hovering for an extended period of time close to the vertical rock face of El Capitan in California.
On September 26, 2011 a climber suffered a lead fall which resulted in the amputation of his thumb. Miraculously, the thumb fell onto a nearby ledge and was recovered by the climber’s partner. A traditional rescue from that location involves inserting a team onto the summit, lowering a rescuer 1,000 feet to the injured climber, and then lowering the injured climber and rescuer an additional 2,000 feet to the ground. That takes many hours, would have been complicated by darkness, and would have significantly reduced the chance of successfully reattaching the thumb. Instead, an advanced and experimental technique was used which involves establishing a tag line from the helicopter to the vertical wall. This technique, practiced but never before employed in an actual rescue, requires a long hover time by the pilot while spotters and riggers on board the helicopter establish a fixed line and monitor the helicopter’s position.
Assistant Helitack Foreman Jeff Pirog rigged the tag line and monitored tail and rotor clearances while the helicopter hovered in close proximity to the wall. Yosemite Helitack Foreman, Eric Small, established the tag line from the helicopter by throwing a weighted ball with an attached string from the open door of the helicopter to the injured climber. Once the tag line was established, Mr. Small dropped his end of the tag line down the 150-foot long short haul line to the rescuers suspended blow.
At the end of the short haul rope, Jeffery Webb and David Pope used the tag line to pull themselves over to the climbers and prepared the injured person for evacuation. When they were ready, Mr. Pope and the injured climber were released from the wall and onto the short haul system. The helicopter, piloted by Richard B. Shatto, transported them to El Capitan Meadow where the injured climber and his amputated thumb were transferred to an air ambulance. Later that night doctors successfully reattached the thumb.
Mr. Webb remained on the wall with the injured climber’s partner overnight; they were evacuated the following morning.
Department of Interior Valor Awards were given to the four NPS personnel mentioned above: Jeff Pirog, Eric Small, Jeffery Webb, and David Pope. The pilot, Mr. Shatto, was not a DOI employee and therefore not eligible for a Department Valor Award, but he did receive a Citizens Award for Bravery from Secretary Jewell.
The amount of expertise required to accomplish something like this is mind-boggling — the training, planning, helitack skills, pilot skills, and rock climbing experience. And to pull it off expertly during an emergency is very impressive and certainly worthy of a major award. Congratulations to all five.
10 Tanker Air Carrier has posted some photos on their web page of their third DC-10 air tanker that is under conversion. They expect it will be complete by mid-summer. The aircraft has been added to the exclusive use contract, along with Tankers 910 and 911.
Below is a really shaky cell phone video of one of the DC-10s dropping on the Miguelito Fire at Camp Pendleton in southern California, May 16, 2014.
The Kern County Fire Department in Bakersfield, California will be hosting a night flying and night vision goggles (NVG) fire suppression drill on June 5. The Department recently distributed the following information. It is interesting in that it will involve not only night flying helicopters, but also crews, engines, and dozers.
“On June 5, 2014 the Kern County Fire Department will be hosting the Southern California Interagency NVG Fire Suppression Drill in the Greater Tehachapi area. Kern County Fire Department, Orange County Fire Authority, Los Angeles City Fire Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Ventura County Fire/Sheriff, and the US Forest Service will participate in the drill with their aircraft.
The drill will begin at 2:00 PM with aircraft arriving at the East Ramp of Tehachapi Municipal Airport, the Drill Helibase. The airport east ramp will be closed to other aircraft and access will be limited to drill participants, Fire Service observers, and support staff only.
The Drill In-briefing will commence at 3:00 PM, following the brief aircraft will conduct area familiarization flights during daylight and return to the Helibase where dinner will be provided at 18:00. NVG Fire suppression operations will commence at approximately 8:45 PM, concluding at approximately 1:00 AM on June 6th. Fire suppression apparatus, including crews, engines, and dozers will be stationed at the burn site on Cummings Ranch.
Helicopters will depart the Helibase on order from the HLCO, proceed to the Tank-Fill site near Brite Lake, take on water and commence water-drop operations by flying circuits from the Tank-Fill site to the fire site on Cummings Ranch. Aircraft will complete as many evolutions as required for each pilot to demonstrate proficiency in night water drop operations. Additionally, Fire Crews will have the opportunity to work with night water-dropping helicopters to practice, train, and develop night water-drop coordination procedures (Identification, Communication, Feedback, etc.).
Aerial Supervision will be provided by the USFS Night Air Attack airplane and Kern County Fire NVG HLCO.”
Established in Los Angeles in 1992, the show began as a grass-roots community effort to celebrate the dynamic role of helicopters in law enforcement, fire service, search and rescue, homeland security, communications and national defense. Today, this non-profit event is offered in several major U.S. cities, enabling spectators from coast-to-coast the opportunity to view advanced military and civilian helicopters and meet the pilots who fly them.
Subject to local fire conditions the organizers expect aircraft from U.S. Forest Service, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Los Angeles City Fire Department, CAL FIRE, Ventura County and others from law enforcement and EMS.
The show features aerial demonstrations including:
Helicopter displays, flyovers and tactical demonstrations
Interactive exhibits and hands-on family activities
When Marines are involved in a fire fight, it usually means bullets, not flames, are in the air. There have been at least 22 military aircraft available for fighting the wildfires in southern California over the last five days, from Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar. The latter has an official Twitter account where we found these photos:
A total of 19 military helicopters are providing fire suppression support to firefighters in southern California, including eight Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, seven CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters and four UH-1Y Huey helicopters.
A report from the military:
“SAN DIEGO – Six flight crews from the “Merlins” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 provided firefighting support to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) in response to wildfires throughout San Diego County May 15.
At the request of CAL FIRE, the six specially-equipped MH-60S Seahawks are supporting firefighting efforts in the vicinity of Camp Pendleton, Calif. by conducting aerial water drops.
“The critical part of our role is supporting CAL FIRE to help save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate great property damage,” said Lt. Cmdr. Todd Stansfield, Third Fleet’s Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) lead. “We have Navy personnel and their families that live and work in the areas of San Diego threatened by the fires. Our efforts support both our people and the communities we live in.”
In August 2011, U.S. Third Fleet, Naval Air Forces Pacific and Navy Region Southwest entered into a memorandum of understanding with CALFIRE. Under the agreement, naval units provide helicopters when notified by CALFIRE of weather conditions favorable to wildfires.
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Wing Pacific prepares ready, trained and certified resources to combat wildfires and crews conduct semi-annual training with CAL FIRE to ensure an immediate response capability in support of local authorities for emergency events. The assigned crews are capable of being airborne within four hours of receiving a request for assistance to combat fires.”