Using infrared to detect gaps in retardant coverage

One of Colorado’s Multi-Mission Aircraft shot this infrared video of an air tanker making a drop on the 500-acre Hunter Fire southwest of Meeker, Colorado about five days ago. Heat from the fire shows up as white and water or retardant drops are dark grey or black. It appears that the air tanker is attempting to fill in a gap in a retardant line, but as you can see, incomplete coverage remains.

The air tanker is very hard to see — it’s just a little dot, but it becomes obvious when the retardant is released. This shows the value of an air attack ship having infrared capabilities; the crew can direct aircraft to fill in gaps in retardant lines, in addition to mapping the fire perimeter.

Single Engine Air Tankers are a very important tool in the firefighter’s tool box, but this also shows the value of large and very large air tankers. A much longer drop means fewer gaps to worry about.

Portable retardant plant for the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire

Above: Equipment to set up a fire retardant plant arrives at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, June 25, 2012. U.S. Air Force photo by Don Branum.

While I was scrolling around the internet searching for something obscure I ran across these photos taken while the Waldo Canyon Fire was burning on the west side of Colorado Springs, Colorado in June, 2012. It appears that Phos-Chek was setting up a portable, or transportable, fire retardant plant at the Colorado Springs Airport, which is the home of Peterson Air Force base and the 302nd Airlift Wing.

Peterson is one of four military bases that can each supply two C-130’s outfitted with the slip-in Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) that converts the aircraft into a 3,000-gallon air tanker. Two MAFFS-equipped aircraft from the 153rd Airlift Wing of the Wyoming Air National Guard at Cheyenne joined the fight along with the Colorado aircraft.

C-130 MAFFS Colorado Springs Waldo Canyon fire
C-130’s being loaded with MAFFS units and configured to help firefighters on the ground suppress the Waldo Canyon Fire which can be seen in the distance, June 24, 2012. U.S. Air Force photo by Ann Skarban.

On June 25, 2012 the C-130s began flying air tanker missions out of Peterson Air Force Base and the permanent air tanker base at Pueblo Memorial Airport 50 miles to the south.

On June 23, 2012 the Waldo Canyon Fire started in the Pike National Forest southwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado. On June 26 it spread into the Mountain Shadows area of the city. Before the fire was out, it had killed two people and burned 18,000 acres and 347 homes. Reports later revealed a very timid, anemic, and confused initial attack on the fire and serious mismanagement issues during the first two to three days.

Two years later the Black Forest Fire on the other side of Colorado Springs killed two people and burned 489 houses and 14,280 acres, resulting in $420 million in insured losses.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged Waldo Canyon Fire.

35-minute turnarounds for Tanker 12 at Sunshine Fire

Above: Sunshine Fire near Boulder, Colorado. Boulder Office of Emergency Management photo.

Tanker 12, the BAe-146 air tanker working the Sunshine Fire near Boulder, Colorado on March 19, was dropping retardant about every 35 minutes, according to Rob McClure of the CBS TV station in Denver.

After a million acres burned in Kansas and Oklahoma on March 6 and 7, the National Interagency Fire Center mobilized three large air tankers on March 10, a little earlier than usual, sending Tanker 12 to the Jeffco Air Tanker base at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport and two others to the OK/KS area.

It turned out that Jeffco was only 12 miles southwest of where the Sunshine Fire started on March 19 near Boulder, Colorado. Rob McClure of CBS4 in Denver timed the interval between drops made by the BAe-146, determining it to be about 35 minutes.

Sunshine Fire Boulder
The Sunshine Fire was 12 miles northwest of Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (in the foreground).

From the air tanker base the pilots could probably see the fire soon after it started. If they took off from runway 30R they would be heading straight at the fire.

In addition to Tanker 12, four helicopters and Colorado’s Multi-mission aircraft were working the incident.

Three National Guard helicopters were made available by a verbal executive order by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper hours after the fire started. The aircraft, from Buckley Air Force Base, included two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, one CH-47 Chinook helicopter, as well as a refueling truck.

Firefighters limited the wildland/urban interface fire to about 74 acres according to the Boulder Office of Emergency Management. We were not there but this appears to have been a pretty aggressive initial attack, an aspect of firefighting along the Front Range that has improved in the last couple of years.

The video below was shot March 19 from the Multi-mission aircraft, showing normal and infrared images.

Three Neptune air tankers activated

On March 9 and 10 the U.S. Forest Service activated three large air tankers, apparently in response to the wildfire situation in the central plains and Colorado.

A wildfire siege involving hundreds of thousands of acres began March 6 in Kansas, Oklahoma, and the northern part of the Texas panhandle. Shortly thereafter fires started popping up in northwest Colorado and the state’s very dry front range. On March 8 when a fire began in the Black Hills of South Dakota that threatened structures and eventually burned 249 acres of timber, the Incident Commander requested an air tanker but was told it would take 24 hours to get one to the fire.

Neptune Aviation announced that three of their BAe-146’s have been deployed. Tanker 12 went to Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (Jeffco) at Broomfield, Colorado, and Tankers 03 and 02 will be working in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Of course they could be moved around from those locations as needed.

The video below is about the Santa Fe fire on Friday near Idaho Springs, Colorado and includes a good view of T-12 making a drop.

Neptune’s T-03 that had been working in Chile for a month began its return flight home on March 5.

Neptune's T-03 Chile
Neptune’s T-03 before departing from Chile. Neptune photo.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bean.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Infrared aircraft detects single-tree wildfire

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control posted this video which apparently shows one of the state’s Multi-Mission Aircraft using infrared sensors to detect a single-tree fire. In the brief period of normal (not infrared imagery) there is very little visible smoke.

Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-mission Aircraft”
One of Colorado’s two Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-Mission Aircraft” at McClellan Air Field March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Tanker 912 back on the job

DC-10 Hayden Pass Fire
A DC-10 air tanker dropping on the Hayden Pass Fire. Undated/uncredited photo uploaded July 14 on InciWeb.

Tanker 912, the DC-10 that embedded its wing tip into the side of a hangar at Pueblo Airport on July 9 has been repaired and was back on the job yesterday. John Gould of 10 Tanker Air Carrier confirmed that it became airworthy again Wednesday and dropped retardant on the Hayden Pass Fire.

Sorry, but the extremely low resolution photo above was the only one we could find of a DC-10 on the Hayden Pass Fire.

DC-10 air tanker wing tip strikes hangar at Pueblo

(Published at 1:50 p.m. MDT July 12, 2016)

DC-10 wing into hangar
DC-10 wing impacts hangar at Pueblo Airport, July 10, 2016. Photo from the SAFECOM.

One of the three DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers, Tanker 912, was involved in an incident while taxiing back to the loading pits at the Pueblo, Colorado airport on Saturday, June 9. A  wing tip struck a hangar causing damage to the aircraft and the hangar. There were no injuries to anyone on the ground or the five personnel on board the air tanker.

After the accident occurred, with the wing tip still partially embedded in the structure, the DC-10 was left in place until Monday morning while the stability of the hangar was assessed and decisions were being made about how to proceed in order to minimize further damage.

“Yesterday [Monday] we had some structural engineers out to assess the hangar’s structural stability”, said John Vigil, Interim Director of the Pueblo Airport. “We were able to just cut off a couple of pieces of steel and then were able to push [the DC-10] back with a tug.

“From what I could see”, Mr. Vigil continued, “the damage was minimal to the aircraft. It was really just the wing tip. The damage to the hangar was a little bit more substantial. We’ll meet with the insurance company tomorrow [July 13] and get an assessment. The good news is the hangar didn’t collapse. There was a small [general aviation] plane in there, we were able to take it out and get it out of harm’s way, and then start to work getting the DC-10 free.”

A tug pushed the aircraft back on Monday, extricating the wing tip from the hangar. Later in the day mechanics from 10 Tanker Air Carrier, the operator of the three DC-10’s, began repairing the damage to the wing.

A SAFECOM was submitted at 12:07 p.m. on July 12, 2016. The FAA also a brief report.

T-912
File photo of Air Tanker 912 departing McClellan Air Field June 11, 2016 while working a fire on the Klamath National Forest. Photo by Matthew Rhodes.

On July 19, 2014 another DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker, T-910, incurred some damage to a wing while it was taxiing at the air tanker base at Moses Lake, Washington. While relocating in the loading pit area the aircraft struck a portable “air stair”, a structure that can be pushed up to the aircraft door. Two people on the ground were marshaling the DC-10 as it slowly moved, directing it where to go and supposedly watching for obstructions.