Douglas County, just south of Denver (map), recently renewed contracts with four fire aviation companies. The agreements are Call When Needed (CWN) and will only be activated when the aircraft are specifically needed.
“Due to the strong possibility of continued dry conditions in and around Douglas County, coupled with the limited air resource availability in the region for the purpose of fighting wildland fire, it is imperative that we have every resource possible available to us,” said the County’s Director of Emergency Management Tim Johnson.
The day before the Aerial Firefighting Conference officially began at McClellan Air Field in Sacramento I interviewed Melissa Lineberger, the Director of Colorado’s Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting based in Rifle, Colorado. She became the interim Director in August, 2014 and later was selected for the full time job.
In the interview she talks about what the Center does, the projects they are working on, the Night Aerial Firefighting Conference they recently hosted, drones, and tracking firefighters.
Colorado has two Pilatus PC-12 intelligence gathering aircraft.
We ran across this post today from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control about their Pilatus PC-12 single-engine aircraft. They have sensors on board that when combined with communications and software capabilities provide wildfire intelligence to office-bound fire managers as well as firefighters on the ground.
Click on the photos to see larger versions.
Colorado MMA 327 visited Rifle today; this flight was mostly training/proficiency for pilots and MSO’s. The MMA’s have had a few missions lately.
The company building Version 2.0 of the 747 Supertanker has leased a hangar at the Colorado Springs Airport. The Gazette reports that Global SuperTanker Services will occupy what has been a vacant 14,880-square-foot hangar. The space will serve as its headquarters for storing equipment for maintaining their Boeing 747-400 jet.
The company announced last August that they purchased the retardant system, related Supplemental Type Certificate (STC), and patents from the ashes of the bankrupt Evergreen company, the developer of the 19,600-gallon air tanker. They have removed the system from the 747-100 (Version 1.0) and installed it in a newer 747-400BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter) (N492EV) with more powerful engines.
Global SuperTanker employs eight people with plans to add five more this year. The company plans on acquiring additional large firefighting aircraft, starting next year, [CEO Jim] Wheeler said.
The Colorado Springs Airport is co-located with Peterson Air Force Base. During wildfire season the base makes two C-130 aircraft available for deployment as air tankers outfitted with the slip-in Modular Aerial Firefighting System (MAFFS).
These videos of retardant and water drops by single engine air tankers were published by the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.
Below is the description for the above video provided by the CDFPC, and following that is the description for the second.
“Bitter Creek Fire, July 26 and 27, 2015: DFPC received dispatch at 1700. The fire was located half way between the border of Colorado and Rock Springs. The video was taken by Mike Miller, DFPC Pilot (contract) from Tanker 831 (T831). There were 5 SEATs working on the the fire when this video was taken.The objective was to contain this fire as soon as possible.”
“Video taken from T831 aircraft in Craig, CO. DFPC crew dropped water to assist firefighters on the ground fighting the Keystone Fire on July 24, 2015. Video taken by: Mike Miller, DFPC Pilot.” (The action starts at about 2:55.)
And here is a bonus — a short video from one of Colorado’s Multi-Mission Aircraft demonstrating the two cameras, visual and infrared.
The two Multi Mission Aircraft (MMA) recently purchased by the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control could be significant progress toward what we have called the Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety — knowing the real time location of a wildfire and firefighters.
The Pilatus PC-12 single-engine aircraft have sensors on board combined with communications and software capabilities that can provide a version of the Holy Grail to office-bound fire managers as well as firefighters on the ground.
Operating well above firefighting air tankers and helicopters, the MMAs have two cameras, color and infrared. The color camera provides video similar to that used by news helicopters orbiting over a wildfire in California. The heat-detecting infrared sensor can map the location of large fires and can find small ones that can be difficult or impossible to spot from the air using just human eyesight. The cameras can be used to monitor the locations of firefighters on the ground, however their identities or resource designators would not be automatically provided.
The suite of communications and software, called Colorado Wildfire Information Management System (CO-WIMS), transmits the data from the sensors in a usable form to a network where it can be accessed by authorized personnel in offices, fire apparatus, and firefighters on the ground with hand held devices.
Half of the Holy Grail appears to be provided with the MMAs — the real time or near-real time location of the fire. The other half, knowing the location of firefighters, can be determined to a certain extent, but only if the equipment operator devotes a significant amount of their time using the cameras to follow personnel and equipment on the ground. On a small fire this could be done while still maintaining the big picture of the spread of the fire, but on large incidents with hundreds or thousands of resources, it would be impossible. However, if a crew reported that they were in a dangerous situation (think Yarnell Hill Fire, where 19 firefighters died), perhaps the operator could use the infrared and visual sensors to locate them and relay that information to resources on the ground or in the air that could provide assistance.
The wildland firefighting agencies still need to adopt hardware and communications systems that can track every piece of apparatus, crew, and any resource operating alone on the fireline. That information could then be accessed on a display that could be monitored, at a minimum, by a Safety Officer, and others as needed; eventually by fire supervisors with hand held devices.
Some of the air attack aircraft under federal contract either have or will have video capabilities similar to that on Colorado’s MMAs, but a system needs to be utilized by the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies that can make it usable to firefighters on the ground. Colorado has provided a template proving it can be done.
The CO-WIMS being used now by Colorado to provide real time intelligence is a huge step forward. While the state is far from developing a comprehensive organization for responding to and managing wildland fires, they deserve kudos for what they have already implemented with the MMAs and CO-WIMS.
It’s kind of like a homeless person being given a pair of $500 shoes. It’s a nice addition to their wardrobe, but there is still more that needs to be done.
The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) sent one of its two Multi-Mission Aircraft to the State of Oregon yesterday to assist with the current wildfire situation in that state.
The national structure for combatting wildland fires is a cooperative, interagency system involving local, state, and federal agencies. “When Colorado needs help to fight wildfires in our state, we rely on other states to send resources,” said State Fire Director Paul Cooke. “We were fortunate that Colorado’s wildfire season has been fairly light thus far,” said Cooke, “so we can afford to help out others with their needs.”
The situation in Oregon now is much like what Colorado experienced in 2012; significant amounts of dry lightning contributing to ignitions and abundant very dry fuels coupled with high temperatures and erratic winds have resulted in extreme fire behavior and rapid spread.
“With the threat of dry lightning and even more fire starts feared, Colorado’s aircraft will be of tremendous benefit”, Cooke said. The State of Colorado’s Multi-Mission Aircraft (MMA) program is unique to the country. The program is comprised of two Pilatus PC-12 airplanes outfitted with state-of-the-art infrared (IR) and color sensors operated by Division of Fire Prevention and Control personnel. The primary mission of the aircraft is the early detection of wildfires and providing important information to ground forces during initial attack. However, the aircraft can also provide persistent surveillance of large wildfires, providing real time information, including live video, to incident commanders to assist them in making tactical decisions and improving the safety and efficiency of firefighting efforts.
Cooke says that since their arrival late yesterday, Colorado’s aircraft has been providing updated intelligence on Oregon’s two largest wildfires. The Stouts fire, burning in southwest Oregon quickly grew to over 15,000 acres since it started on Thursday, and is only 3 percent contained. The Cable Crossing fire, also in southwest Oregon, has burned more than 1,100 acres since it started on Tuesday, and is currently 15 percent contained.
Cooke says that even though the assistance is reciprocal, Colorado will be reimbursed by the State of Oregon for the use of the resources on loan.
Douglas County, just south of Denver (map), signed contracts three weeks ago with three fire aviation companies. The agreements are Call When Needed (CWN) and will only be activated when the aircraft are specifically needed.