The October, 2017 fires were driven by winds gusting over 80 mph
During the disastrous wildfires that tore through large swaths of the North Bay area of California in October, 2017 two California Highway Patrol helicopter crews heroically rescued 42 residents who were trapped when roads became blocked by fallen trees as winds gusted above 80 mph. One of the helicopters was based in Napa crewed by flight officer Whitney Lowe and pilot Pete Gavitte. A second helicopter joined them from Redding with Officers Chad Millward and Phil Agdeppa. The rescues were conducted at night with the benefit of night vision goggles.
An article at Patch.com has the details. Here is an excerpt:
“What started our rescue efforts was listening to the radio and hearing that there is nobody coming for these people, and then seeing the different blockades in the road, from downed trees to downed wires, and lines of cars that were stopped and entrapped,” Lowe said.
“We were looking from above; having the perfect view of the fire headed their direction … and thinking ‘They have no idea,'” he said.
Once they found somewhere suitable to land, Lowe recalls jumping out of the helicopter and running a quarter-mile down to a line of cars full of people trapped by fire.
“I started telling the people in cars, ‘There is a huge fire and it’s coming this direction, you guys are trapped in three different places between here and safety at the bottom of the hill. If you guys want, come up to the helicopter and we’ll start evacuating you guys.’ And so that is what we did.”
In groups of one to four, multiple families were flown to safety at Monticello Road and Atlas Peak Road. When fire encroached that area, the families were evacuated to Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa.
“That is what we did for the next 8-1/2 hours,” Lowe said. “We never shut the helicopter off, just refueled.”
“Throughout the night we were able to rescue 26 people, and they [the Redding crew] were able to rescue another 16 people,” Lowe said.
After the smoke cleared the four officers received multiple medals of valor.
Above: Helicopters at the Cow Creek Fire October 17, 2019. Photo by the incident management team.
Two helicopters working on the 655-acre Cow Creek Fire were photographed at the helibase October 17, 2019. The ship in the foreground, N132BH, is a Eurocopter AS 350 B3 registered to BHI Helicopters out of Ontario, Oregon. A third helicopter is also assigned to the fire.
The Cow Creek Fire is 9 miles east of Ridgway, Colorado. The photo was taken before three spot fires 0.75 away from the main fire took off near the western base of Courthouse Mountain. A Type 1 Incident Management Team was ordered Thursday night.
CAL FIRE plans to purchase up to 12 Sikorsky S-70i firefighting helicopters
(Above: CAL FIRE’s Firehawk helicopter 903 at Centennial Airport southeast of Denver on the weekend of October 5, 2019, shortly before it was delivered to CAL FIRE in Sacramento. Photo by Kevin Falkenstine.)
Helicopter 903, with “McClellan” painted on the side, will be able to carry up to 1,000 gallons of water in an external belly tank. Other features include a 9,000 pound capacity cargo hook, 360-gallon fuel cell, night vision compatible lighting, rescue hoist, augmented reality mapping system, and retractible drafting hose. It can cruise fully loaded at 130 knots (150 mph), or 150 knots (173 mph) unloaded.
Each of CAL FIRE’s new Firehawks costs about $24 million which includes pilot training and a two-year warranty.
The three photos seen here that were taken out of doors are by Kevin Falkenstine. He spotted the aircraft on the weekend of October 5 flying near the compass rose at Centennial Airport, which is where United Rotorcraft is located southeast of Denver.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jack. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
The 747 Supertanker (GST944) has completed its assignment assisting the firefighters in Bolivia. It is scheduled to fly back to U.S. Monday night after arriving in South America on August 23.
Tanker 944 is scheduled to depart from Viru Viru Int’l (VVI) at 3:06 PM MDT Monday October 14 heading for San Bernardino International (SBD) with an estimated arrival at 12:04 AM PDT Tuesday October 15. (UPDATE: it appears the departure will be delayed, and the aircraft will probably arrive at SBD Tuesday afternoon.)
Above: CH-54B, N722HT, at the Saddle Ridge Fire. Stonebrookphotography.
These photos of helicopters refilling at the Chatsworth Lake helispot during the Saddle Ridge Fire were taken by Stonebrookphotography October 11, 2019.
The fire has burned 7,965 acres and 21 structures on the north side of Los Angeles. Strong north to northeast Santa Ana winds caused the fire to spread seven miles across Southern California, from Sylmar to Granda Hills and almost to Chatsworth. More information is at Wildfire Today.
Today, October 11, 2019, Robert Schwemmer shot this video of two Canadair CL-415 Super Scoopers from Quebec that are under contract with Los Angeles County, refilling their water tanks at Castaic Lake to fight the Saddle Ridge fire on the north side of Los Angeles.
The fire has burned over 7,000 acres and destroyed 25 structures. More information about the fire is at Wildfire Today.
Authorities in Australia are considering authorizing a 737 air tanker to carry up to 70 passengers
The Boeing 737-300 airliners formerly operated by Southwest Airlines that Coulson Aviation is converting into air tankers are physically capable of carrying up to 4,000 gallons of retardant or 70 passengers. The one the company sold to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service in Australia, Tanker 138, has been busy fighting bushfires since it was delivered in July.
The regulatory steps to get approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to carry passengers are under way, according to Richard Alder, General Manager of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre. Some of those milestones include changing the aircraft’s registration from the United States Federal Aviation Administration to CASA. That process may involve testing with a load of people acting as passengers to ensure that they can evacuate within the required time frame.
“We are required to have three flight attendants in the airplane due to the number of seats,” said Britt Coulson Vice President of Coulson Aviation. “We are still looking at options of who we are going to use to fulfill those positions.”
Passenger and baggage screening
One other detail that has to be worked out is whether the passengers and baggage are required to be screened by electronic devices or security personnel.
Passengers in the 737 air tanker in the United States
The NSW RFS Large Air Tanker (LAT) has made its first ever drop on the Lindfield Park Road fire at Port Macquarie this afternoon. The fire has flared in the strong winds however does remain behind identified containment lines. #NSWRFS#nswfirespic.twitter.com/YyXUQFXWpH