Two SEATs in Oregon dropped almost 200K gallons of retardant in 2015

Two Single Engine Air Tankers operated by Air Spray and contracted to the state of Oregon dropped 195,906 gallons of retardant in 2015. That is about a fourth of the 838,000 gallons dropped by all air tankers working for the state this year. The two SEATs were primarily based in Prineville.

Air Spray Air Tractor
A new Air Tractor 802 that was added to the Air Spray fleet earlier in 2015. It worked under contract for the state of Oregon. Air Spray photo.

Below is an excerpt from an article in The Bulletin:

…The planes were part of a $5 million program to beef up the firefighting fleet in Oregon this past year. The agency was able to move the small tankers around the state when needed. Over the course of the fire season, they reloaded in John Day, Medford, Roseburg and The Dalles. But primarily they flew in and out of Prineville and Redmond, carrying 71,784 gallons of retardant from Prineville and 48,977 from Redmond.

Contracted with the state, the planes that flew out of Prineville belong to Air Spray, a Chico, California, company. Built by Texas-based Air Tractor, they cost $1.7 million each.

Blue Mountain Rappellers

From the Blue Mountain Rappellers website:

“The Blue Mountain Rappel Crew is a 14-18 person crew of aerially delivered wildland firefighters. We host a Bell 205A++ Helicopter that can deliver 4 rappellers to remote areas anywhere in the nation that has the need. Formerly the Frazier Rappel Crew, the Blue Mountain Rappel Crew has recently moved locations from Ukiah OR, to La Grande OR in 2012. The Base is located at the La Grande airport near the Blue Mountain Interagency Fire Center and the Union and La Grande IHC fire shops. The Base organization consist of a Base Manager, two Assistant Foremen, Two Squadleaders and Two permanent Senior Firefighters in addition to 6 to 10 seasonals. Since 1997 the crew has been delivering firefighters via ropes and helicopters to incidents around the country. As a National fire resource, we respond locally to Initial Attack in North East Oregon as well as mobilize to large fire support and Initial Attack in the lower 48 and Alaska.”

Blue Mountain Rappellers
Blue Mountain Rappellers, 2015. Photo provided by the crew.

Ride with a SEAT pilot on the Windy Ridge Fire

Fred Johnson of AirRailImages sent us a link to this video that captures images through the windshield and audio from the radios as a Single Engine Air Tanker prepares to drop retardant on the Windy Ridge Fire. The Cornet/Windy Ridge Fire, four miles west of Durkee, Oregon, has burned over 102,000 acres of BLM and Oregon Department of Forestry protected private lands. The fire was turned back over to local units on August 26, probably as a result of this successful SEAT drop. ¬†ūüėČ

And below is a unique viewpoint of a crew at Ontario, Oregon loading retardant into a seat. The video is from Aug. 14, 2015, by Larry Moore, BLM Vale.

Colorado sends multi-mission aircraft to assist oregon with large wildfires

PC-12
One of Colorado’s two Pilatus PC-12s.

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.¬† ‚ÄúWhen Colorado needs help to fight wildfires in our state, we rely on other states to send resources,‚ÄĚ said¬†State Fire Director Paul Cooke. “We were fortunate that Colorado‚Äôs wildfire season has been fairly light thus far,‚ÄĚ said Cooke, ‚Äúso we can afford to help out others with their needs.‚ÄĚ

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.

‚ÄúWith the threat of dry lightning and even more fire starts feared, Colorado‚Äôs aircraft will be of tremendous benefit‚ÄĚ, Cooke said.¬†¬†The State of Colorado‚Äôs 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.

More information about Colorado’s Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.

Air tankers at La Grande, Oregon

T-10 at La Grande
T-10 (a BAe-146), another BAe-146, and an RJ85, La Grande, OR. Photo by Josh Annas.

Josh Annas took these photos of air tankers that were working out of Union County Airport in La Grande, Oregon (map) between July 20 and 24. The aircraft were working the Blue Creek Fire in the southwest corner of Washington.

Aaron tells us that on July 23, 13,000 gallons of Jet A fuel was used.

RJ85 at La Grande
An RJ85 at La Grande, OR. Photo by Josh Annas.
T-131 at La Grande
An RJ85 and T-131 (a C-130Q) at La Grande, OR, while a SEAT photo-bombs. Photo by Josh Annas.
Tanker 45, a P2V
Tanker 45, a P2V, at La Grande, OR. Photo by Josh Annas.

Firefighter in Oregon with broken leg rescued by short haul

A firefighter who suffered a broken leg while working on a wildfire east of Corvallis, Oregon was extracted from a very remote area by short haul with a National Park Service helicopter.

Below is a press release from the¬†Linn County Sheriff’s Office:

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“Linn County Undersheriff Jim Yon reports on Monday July 20, at 10:10pm, the Sheriff’s Office received a call from the U.S. Forest Service requesting assistance from Linn County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue for an injured wildland fire fighter. Michael Lee Burri, 31 years old from Estacada, sustained a broken leg while working with a 21 person Mount Hood Initial Attack Fire Team that had been fighting a small fire near road 11 off Quartzville road.

Sweet Home Fire Department paramedics initially were dispatched to the scene. Two medics hiked in approximately 3 miles to Burri. Once on scene, they recognized an air rescue would be the safest way to remove Burri.

Linn County SAR worked in coordination with Oregon Air National Guard to get a United States Coast Guard helicopter to the area to attempt a rescue. The Coast Guard helicopter arrived in the area at 03:00am. As the Coast Guard helicopter attempted to land, air from the blades caused the fire to quickly stir up. The fire, along with the rough terrain, made the rescue not possible. The Coast Guard helicopter did not attempt another rescue.

Linn County SAR had been on standby up until this point and now responded to the trailhead. They cleared a secondary landing zone for a helicopter. At day light, a National Park Service MD 900 helicopter, out of Redmond, was successfully able to air lift Burri out. They had to use a rope and harness because the helicopter was not able to land. Burri was taken to the secondary landing area, loaded into the helicopter, and then transported to the Albany Municipal Airport. Burri was transferred to an Albany Fire Department ambulance and taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis.

Linn County Sheriff’s Office had a total of 18 members from SAR involved with the operation, along with 2 members from the Sweet Home Fire Department. Other agencies involved were the U.S. Forest Service, United States Coast Guard, and the National Parks Service.”

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(UPDATE July 27, 2015)

On July 24 we asked Tina Boehle, a spokesperson for the National Park Service, about this incident. She told us today, July 27, “According to Shad Sitz, our Regional Aviation Manager for Pacific West Region, it was the Grand Canyon National Park helicopter and crew that conducted the short-haul operation you note.”

Later in the day a “72 hour” report was issued for the incident.

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

Fuel truck added at Burns Airport will help mitigate fuel outages

Burns Airport fuel truck
A 6,000 gallon fuel tanker obtained from military surplus arrives at the Burns, Oregon. Photo by Burns Municipal Airport.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Capital Press:

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“During fire season last summer in southeast Oregon, the Burns Municipal Airport ran out of fuel for firefighting airplanes nine times.

With drought expected to bring an even worse wildfire danger this year, airport Manager Jeff Cotton, community members and the Bureau of Land Management, which manages much of range and forestland in the region, began looking for ways to avoid similar shortages and response delays. Having to halt flights until fuel was delivered interrupted the firefighting effort.

Cotton and the others learned a military surplus tanker truck was available at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and federal General Services Administration approved the airport’s request. The tanker was free, and the BLM paid for two drivers and a low-boy hauling rig to go get it.

The tanker, a 1995 Volvo with only 300 miles on it, holds 6,000 gallons of fuel. Cotton said the rolling cache gives the airport about three days worth of fuel for the air tankers. He’d like more, but he’s glad to have it.

Cotton said he hopes to obtain another tanker truck next fall or spring.

‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not out of the woods yet,‚ÄĚ he said.”