Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting to be open soon

Melissa Lineberger
Melissa Lineberger Interim Director of the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting, and Paul Cooke Division of Fire Prevention and Control Director. Photo by Garfield County Rifle Airport.

(UPDATE at 9 p.m. MDT, May 15, 2015: After “Phil” left a comment below saying “Director Cooke selected Ms.[Melissa] Lineberger as the Center’s Director on Wednesday”, we checked with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control to confirm, and it is true. She is a licensed attorney who joined the state Division of Fire Prevention and Control in 2013 as a policy analyst before taking her interim position last August.)

(Originally published at 2:11 p.m. MDT, May 15, 2015:)

This week in Rifle, Colorado there was a ribbon cutting for the ceremonial opening of Colorado’s Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting. Later this summer the Center will be working out of a facility at the Garfield County Rifle Airport.

Radio station KRCC conducted an interview with the interim Director, Melissa Lineberger. Below is an excerpt:

AHM:  Exactly what will your duties be?

LINEBERGER:  As the director, I’ll be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the center, ensuring that we are meeting our goals as far as completing projects on time, communicating with the legislature to ensure that they understand what we’re doing, and then also being involved as a spokesperson to the Colorado firefighting community, make sure that they understand when we have a new tactic, technique or procedure, understand how that can be implemented and how that can help them, and then provide whatever training is necessary.  [Are] demonstrations the best way to go?  Or is it sitting down in a classroom and having them see the process that we went through to get to a solution?  I’ll be in charge of overseeing all that and making sure the staff is as excited as I am for this opportunity and is moving forward in the right direction.

AHM:  What projects are you looking at right now?

LINEBERGER:  Some of the initial projects that I’ve already started doing research on [are] night operations. Right now we’re not doing bucket drops from the air at night on fires because 30-40 years ago there were some high profile helicopter crashes when they were trying to fly at night.  But night-vision goggle technology has come a long way.  People have been scared to re-implement [night-time aerial bucket drops] because of the safety issue.  So what we want to do is look into the safety, talk to the folks who are doing night flying currently with the National Guard and with some other organizations, and try to figure our how we can get night operations on our fires here in Colorado.  There’s a lot of benefits to fighting fire at night, the smoke lays down, and there’s just opportunities for us to attack those fires 24 hours a day from the air.

According to the Post Independent, ”

… the state Division of Fire Prevention and Control expect to complete a job description for the director soon, followed by a “rigorous” selection process that could take two or three months. After that, they can began hiring the remaining eight full-time staff members, who will occupy an existing building that is being vacated by Garfield County.

13 thoughts on “Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting to be open soon”

  1. Center of Excellence, an exciting new adventure into aerial fire fighting. One of the first projects, night operations. About time this issue was challenged. Although some fire agencies are conducting night aerial delivery of water this is “stadium” fire fighting. Working in an area (interface) that has some lighting for references. As an agricultural pilot with (?) hours of night spraying (fixed-wing) experience here is my thoughts. Night ops, think BIG (i.e Chinook) Think down load, instead of 2000 gallons per sortie at Colorado’s D.A. 1000 gallons? Aircraft time should be spent delivering large amounts of water. Reduce the number of bucket loads if possible (quick containment) transitioning from water source to drop. This was the most difficult part of night spraying. Thirty to fifty take-offs and landings per night from tank truck lights to deep darkness. Know when to abort the mission, make a quick (no 2nd guessing) and early decision. Example, cotton spraying in the desert (Arizona) no ground lights, no moon, overcast sky, no stars visible, time to stop. Worked with the Guard for many years fire fighting, excellent source of night ops. Best to Colorado’s Center of Excellence.

  2. Look at the LAC program. If you’re going to do it, they have it down. No buckets, use tanks. Expensive, and is it worth it?

    1. There are night ops and then there are real night ops. Several new products on the market to allow operations even in the dark.
      Tank or a 150 feet sling? Who ever the Center selects for management of projects and departments hopefully will come from a background of broad horizon thinking, extensive real world fire/management experience and proven significant accomplishments. L.A. County, a stadium aerial fire fighter. Columbia and Billings Flying Service both are involved in the Ch 47 civilian fire program. Sky Crane another good choice if I.F.R. equipped and pilots are current on instruments.

  3. A true Center of Excellence would focus less on advanced technology and more on enlightened program management. Without a complete rethink of how things are currently managed within the industry, you’re still just peeing upwind, but with more expensive equipment.
    Once that management exists, one can focus on the tech side, and worry about such things as night ops and tanks vs buckets.

    Good luck Colorado. Sincerely.

  4. No reason in the world not to be conducting night air operations on a more productive scale not just hauling water but work on a system to fill with retardant, this means getting all involved with night ops. Operations and Logistics

    My hats off to the program..

  5. My hope would be for them to get the program off the ground, organized and successful, then look at expanding into the more detailed aspects. Sounds like they have a different way of developing their program, hope it works out.

  6. Looking back on my five decades in the fire/aviation business I think of all the fire that escaped because there wasn’t a program to deliver water/retardant after sunset. Most recently the King Fire in California. MBO, management by objective, deliver water/retardant in deep dark in mountainous terrain effectively in support of fire containment and fire fighter safety. C of E selects a program manager and team, puts it together. Not as difficult as going to Mars. Withdraw the Sky Crane, not enough time on station, lack of response speed. CH 47 (Chinook) IFR, multirole. There is the aircraft of choice. Now equip the aircraft for the mission, train the flight crew.

  7. I understand wanting to improve fire fighting operations, but what the non-flyers don’t understand is that they are doubling the work load on pilots in an already stressful environment flying at night. Sorry, but they don’t have a clue! No, I haven’t used night goggles on a fire, but I have in combat and it takes time getting used to them. Returning to a highly lite area for reloading is also going to be a problem wearing night vision goggles. It takes time for your eyes to re-adjust, slowing the operation 15 to 30 minutes each trip. Which means training and lots of it, adding to the cost for the private contractors. I sure as hell hope they aren’t thinking about using the jet tankers at night, just very foolish, unnecessary and it borders stupidity. Increase there use by putting them on the fire faster during the day and use more tankers during the day, when its safer! Don’t wait until the fire covers half the state before putting tankers on them. So many other tactics could be used, but probably won’t, time will tell. There are so many other ways to improve what is being done, but you need the input from the pilots flying the missions not some elected bozo or committee that doesn’t have a clue, just paperwork! Good luck to CO for at least making some progress.

  8. Correct, night goggles won’t work in the fire environment. Pictorial format avionics, synthetic vision systems and enhanced vision systems have been around since the 1980’s. Coupled with current drone technology and G.P.S. the “wheel” has already been rolling. If I was the program manager for the night ops development program I would start with two familiar words, Garmin and Honeywell. No charge (again.)

    1. Immense costs, marginal gains. I offer my own two familiar words that will do infinitely more than fancy avionics & drones: ‘drip torch’.

      Large-scale fuel mitigation prior to the event and a coordinated management afterwards will result in far more success than a policy favoring nocturnal emissions.

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