Video of LA County helicopter dropping on Tuna Fire

It takes extraordinary skill to drop the water that slowly. 😉

The Tuna Fire was in southern California near Malibu.

CAL FIRE extends contract with DynCorp

CAL FIRE OV-10A
CAL FIRE OV-10D (with the upgraded engines) at Redding, California, August 7, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

CAL FIRE has extended it’s contract with DynCorp for another year for maintaining and operating their S-2T air tankers and OV-10s, and for maintaining their UH-1H helicopters. The agreement has a total value of $27.8 million.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has extended its contract with DynCorp International (DI) to continue supporting its aviation program to help suppress and control wildfires.

“The partnership between CAL FIRE and DI allows us to meet our mission and keep the residents of California safe.”

“Our aviation fleet is a critical component to our ability to contain wildfires in California,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director. “The partnership between CAL FIRE and DI allows us to meet our mission and keep the residents of California safe.”

Through this contract, DI team members pilot and maintain CAL FIRE’s modified S-2T air tankers and OV-10A aircraft. Air tankers are used to drop fire retardant to help battle wildfires, while the OV-10A aircraft support aerial firefighting operations by directing the air tankers and monitoring critical areas. DI also provides maintenance support for CAL FIRE’s UH-1H helicopters that are used to transport fire fighters and equipment. Aircraft maintenance services include repair, overhaul, modification, and manufacturing of airframes, engines, propellers, helicopter rotating components, and various aircraft parts and components.

“The true heroes are the firefighters that work on the ground to stop these wildfires, and we are honored to work alongside them. DI has supported CAL FIRE since 2001, and our team members take great pride in being able to augment the efforts that save lives, property, and natural resources throughout the state of California,” said James Myles, DynAviation senior vice president, DynCorp International. “Our partnership with the CAL FIRE team has helped DI become a true leader in aerial firefighting.”

Smokey Bear “flies air tanker” in Christmas parade

S-2 Redding parade float
A float in the Redding, California Christmas parade, December 7, 2014. CAL FIRE photo.

Sunday evening CAL FIRE / Shasta County Fire participated in the Redding (California) Lighted Christmas Parade with a special float featuring Tanker 94 flown by Smokey Bear dropping a special load of presents. The model airtanker is a replica of CAL FIRE’s Tanker 94 based at the Redding Air Base. It was created by CAL FIRE Engineer Patrick Westrip and many volunteers. Watch a video of how it was developed.

The Tanker that is on the float. (Screen shot from the video.)
The Tanker that is on the float. (Screen shot from the video.)

You can compare the float with the real Tanker 94 below.

Tanker 94, an S-2T, at Redding
Tanker 94, an S-2T, at Redding, August 7, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Johnny.

Scoopers drop on a fire near Santa Clarita, California

The two CL-415s, under contract to Los Angeles County, actually dropped water, not fire retardant.

A fire you didn’t hear about

Mesa Fire Cajon Pass
Night flying helicopter dropping on the Mesa Fire in Cajon Pass, November 8, 2014. Photo by San Bernardino County Fire Department.

Firefighters on the ground and in the air routinely put out fires when they are small, but only the large fires that threaten private property get the extensive news coverage. The Mesa Fire was knocked down Saturday at about 7 p.m. after burning two acres in Cajon Pass in southern California near Interstate 15. Helicopter 531, Air Attack 51, and firefighters on the ground made the stop.

CAL Fire’s first permanent female helicopter pilot featured on LA television

Desiree Horton was recently hired by CAL FIRE as their first permanent female helicopter pilot. She has been working for the last year or so in a temporary position as a pilot for the agency, and before that she flew for many years as a contract pilot on firefighting helicopters, and as a news helicopter pilot in the Los Angeles area.

A few days ago we had a short video that teased about the report above, which which ran yesterday on the CBS Los Angeles 11 p.m. news.

Congratulations to Desiree!

NTSB: S-2T that crashed may have struck a tree

S-2T air tanker crash
Site of the S-2T air tanker crash. Photo by Ken Yager.

In a preliminary report that was released Tuesday night, the National Transportation Safety Board said the S-2T air tanker that crashed near Yosemite National Park in California on October 7 may have struck a tree which broke off a part of the aircraft’s wing.

Two other firefighting aircraft were in the area at the time. A lead plane preceded the air tanker into the drop area but that pilot did not see the crash. However the crew of an air attack ship overhead did, and they told the NTSB that the S-2T may have struck a tree, causing part of a wing to break off.

Both aircrews reported that there was smoke in the area, but visibility was good.

The air tanker was stationed at the air tanker base at Hollister, California, and had been dispatched to the Dog Rock fire. The airplane arrived on scene, made one drop on the fire, then proceeded to the Columbia Airport to be reloaded with fire retardant before it returned and made its final flight. Pilot Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt died in the accident.

A resident in the area of the crash site told us that locals took quite a few photos and a video that will help the NTSB’s investigation. They are unwilling to release the imagery to the public until after the investigation is complete.

It will be many more months before the NTSB releases their final report.

CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott issued the following statement regarding the NTSB’s preliminary information on the crash.

“Aerial firefighting is not simply flying from one airport to another. The wildland firefighting environment is a challenging one, both on the ground and in the air,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of CAL FIRE. “We look forward to the final NTSB report to see if we can use the findings to help mitigate the inherent dangers of the job. We owe that to Craig, who traded his life in an effort to protect the lives of others.”

Video package from UAV was installed on Air Attack ship working on the Happy Camp Fire

live wildfire video
Live microwave linked 28 miles to SkyIMD’s IR/EO from the base station. Live control occurred in the field, and was transferred through the internet to Incident Command, where the Planning Section Chief could operate the superzoom gimbal.

A suite of video sensors normally used on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was installed on an Air Attack aircraft working on the 134,056-acre Happy Camp Fire in northern California. The instruments provide normal and infrared video, making it possible for the Air Tactical Group Supervisor and personnel at the Incident Command Post to see in real time through smoke to determine where the priorities should be and where aircraft should be assigned to drop water or retardant.

Below is information provided by SkyIMD, Inc.:

“Remote control of airborne stabilized camera EO/IR (Electro Optical/Infrared) gimbals designed for UAVs is available through SkyIMD SkyFusion Pak for fixed wing, rotorcraft, and UAVs. Systems support fully automated 3D geo-tracking of static locations or GIS (Geographic Information System) fire lines comprising of thousands of points. Advanced object recognition provides hands-off following of aircraft and vehicles. Satellite and 3G connectivity delivers streaming video or snapshots over the internet to any iPhone, Android, or computer.

“Infrared stops fire from hiding in its own smokescreen,” says Hart Drobish (President of Courtney Aviation, the Air Attack Operator). “SkyIMD makes an extremely sophisticated tool intuitive for first time users. Without training, Air Attacks see through smoke. Zoomed in, IR identifies fire creeping through retardant that is too late once visible to the naked eye.” Hart is developing IR solutions on multiple platforms to extend coverage.

The Planning Section Chief responsible for intelligence, strategy, and objectives at the Incident Command Post (ICP) operated the FLIR infrared sensor when the cockpit crew was busy managing airspace. The Chief of the Happy Camp Complex fire could click the fire map or touch the live video to “walk around” deep in the burn. The new spot fires discovered were then verified by the aircrew. Using the same remote control, SkyIMD in San Francisco interactively trained the Chief who had never before operated an EO/IR superzoom gimbal. The easy interface took only a few minutes to learn and become a valuable asset.

“Seeing through the smoke is indispensable,” says Air Attack Dick Stiliha (ATGS, Air Tactical Group Supervisor). “I hope to never be without infrared again. Sharing live video with ICP was very beneficial. Equally valuable, recorded video was used for daily post mission debrief to improve tanker pilots’ effectiveness and safety.”

“The only growing-pain with remote controlling the airborne infrared was that so many people wanted to use it,” says Henri Wolf (SkyIMD CTO and former wildfire tanker pilot). “Since drones are not currently approved for wildfires, some aerial firefighters would like to use the same cameras on a manned-drone parked out of the way, above the congested fire attack altitudes. A ground operated gimbal flown solo, a manned UAV, will provide all the benefits of a UAS, extending ICP’s vision while relieving workload, and has the potential to evolve into an unmanned aircraft in the future.“  “