Night flying fire suppression drill scheduled in California

The Kern County Fire Department in Bakersfield, California will be hosting a night flying and night vision goggles (NVG) fire suppression drill on June 5. The Department recently distributed the following information. It is interesting in that it will involve not only night flying helicopters, but also crews, engines, and dozers.

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“On June 5, 2014 the Kern County Fire Department will be hosting the Southern California Interagency NVG Fire Suppression Drill in the Greater Tehachapi area. Kern County Fire Department, Orange County Fire Authority, Los Angeles City Fire Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Ventura County Fire/Sheriff, and the US Forest Service will participate in the drill with their aircraft.

The drill will begin at 2:00 PM with aircraft arriving at the East Ramp of Tehachapi Municipal Airport, the Drill Helibase. The airport east ramp will be closed to other aircraft and access will be limited to drill participants, Fire Service observers, and support staff only.

The Drill In-briefing will commence at 3:00 PM, following the brief aircraft will conduct area familiarization flights during daylight and return to the Helibase where dinner will be provided at 18:00. NVG Fire suppression operations will commence at approximately 8:45 PM, concluding at approximately 1:00 AM on June 6th. Fire suppression apparatus, including crews, engines, and dozers will be stationed at the burn site on Cummings Ranch.

Helicopters will depart the Helibase on order from the HLCO, proceed to the Tank-Fill site near Brite Lake, take on water and commence water-drop operations by flying circuits from the Tank-Fill site to the fire site on Cummings Ranch. Aircraft will complete as many evolutions as required for each pilot to demonstrate proficiency in night water drop operations. Additionally, Fire Crews will have the opportunity to work with night water-dropping helicopters to practice, train, and develop night water-drop coordination procedures (Identification, Communication, Feedback, etc.).

Aerial Supervision will be provided by the USFS Night Air Attack airplane and Kern County Fire NVG HLCO.”

 

Forest Service publishes info on aerial firefighting resources

USFS air tanker graphic
A portion of a US Forest Service graphic.

We have not seen the U.S. Forest Service bragging about their aerial firefighting resources much since the fleet was eviscerated after 2002 to about eight last year. But since they added five jet-powered air tankers to the fleet in the last week, they felt confident to produce a graphic promoting the aircraft. Above is a portion of the graphic; you can see the entire document at the USFS website.

 

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Leo.

Photos from the Marines during their fire fight

When Marines are involved in a fire fight, it usually means bullets, not flames, are in the air. There have been at least 22 military aircraft available for fighting the wildfires in southern California over the last five days, from Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar. The latter has an official Twitter account where we found these photos:

Continue reading “Photos from the Marines during their fire fight”

National Guard helicopter training in South Dakota

National Guard helicopter wildfire training

 

Today the South Dakota National Guard Aviation Unit conducted their annual fire certification at Angostura Lake and the Hot Springs Airport. It was coordinated by the South Dakota Wildland Fire Division so that the National Guard Black Hawk helicopters can assist in suppressing wildland fires.

Crews were tested on fire aviation procedures which included dipping buckets attached to helicopters at a water source and accurately dropping the water on a target.

The helicopters used were Blackhawks and a Lakota. It was quite windy during the exercise, increasing the level of difficulty for the crews.

All of the photos were taken by Bill Gabbert.
National Guard helicopter wildfire training

National Guard helicopter wildfire training

National Guard helicopter wildfire training

Continue reading “National Guard helicopter training in South Dakota”

U.S. Navy helicopters assist with the fires in southern California

MH-60S Seahawk
An MH-60S Seahawk with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 lifts off from Camp Pendleton May 15 to assist the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Joan E. Jennings)

A total of 19 military helicopters are providing fire suppression support to firefighters in southern California, including eight Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, seven CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters and four UH-1Y Huey helicopters.

A report from the military:

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“SAN DIEGO – Six flight crews from the “Merlins” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 provided firefighting support to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) in response to wildfires throughout San Diego County May 15.

At the request of CAL FIRE, the six specially-equipped MH-60S Seahawks are supporting firefighting efforts in the vicinity of Camp Pendleton, Calif. by conducting aerial water drops.

“The critical part of our role is supporting CAL FIRE to help save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate great property damage,” said Lt. Cmdr. Todd Stansfield, Third Fleet’s Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) lead. “We have Navy personnel and their families that live and work in the areas of San Diego threatened by the fires. Our efforts support both our people and the communities we live in.”

In August 2011, U.S. Third Fleet, Naval Air Forces Pacific and Navy Region Southwest entered into a memorandum of understanding with CALFIRE. Under the agreement, naval units provide helicopters when notified by CALFIRE of weather conditions favorable to wildfires.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Wing Pacific prepares ready, trained and certified resources to combat wildfires and crews conduct semi-annual training with CAL FIRE to ensure an immediate response capability in support of local authorities for emergency events. The assigned crews are capable of being airborne within four hours of receiving a request for assistance to combat fires.”

Colorado’s plan for aerial firefighting resources for 2014

Colorado’s Division of Fire Prevention and Control has provided a few more details about their aerial firefighting resources for this year. According to their 2014 Wildfire Preparedness Plan, dated April 24, 2014:

  • They will “procure and operate two fixed-wing multi-mission aircraft”, in order to provide an incident assessment for every fire within 60 minutes of the report or detection.
  • They will “procure and operate four multi-mission rotor-wing aircraft”. The helicopters will be able to transport helitack crews and carry water or retardant.
  • The state will increase the number of contracted Single Engine Air Tankers from two to four.

The term “procure” is vague, and could mean they will either purchase or contract for the use of the aircraft. Previous information led us to believe they would purchase the two fixed wing multi-mission aircraft and contract for the four helicopters.

[UPDATE, May 15, 2014: One of our loyal readers, Bean, talked to with Paul Cooke, director of the Colorado Department of Fire Prevention and Control, at a meeting recently, and Director Cooke confirmed that they expect to purchase the two fixed wing multi-mission aircraft and contract for the four helicopters and the SEATs.]

On May 12 Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed the legislation recently passed by the House and the Senate that authorizes the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps (CFAC) to acquire a fleet of helicopters and air tankers to fight wildfires. 

The complete text from the section of the 2014 Wildfire Preparedness Plan that covers aerial firefighting is below.

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“Aerial Firefighting Resources

DFPC will develop and manage the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps (CFAC) that will provide for availability of appropriate aerial firefighting equipment and personnel at times of both high and fire risk to respond to a wildfire.

The 2014 plan for CFAC aerial firefighting resources will be based on wildfire risk and need, as well as available funding, and may include any number of potential arrangements. To the degree practicable and possible, the minimum deployment of CFAC aerial firefighting resources will be:

Multi-Mission Fixed-Wing Aircraft – In order achieve the goal of generating an incident assessment for every fire within 60 minutes of report or detection of a wildfire Colorado should procure and operate two fixed-wing multi-mission aircraft.

These aircraft should be equipped with modern sensing, processing, and communication systems to allow for the gathering and dissemination of real-time wildfire information. The multi-mission aircraft should be integrated into the state’s wildfire information management system to allow all data to be immediately available to wildfire managers across the state.

Rotor-Wing Multi-Mission Aircraft – In order achieve the goal of providing the appropriate aviation suppression resources to every fire within 60 minutes of the request Colorado should procure and operate four multi-mission rotor-wing aircraft.

These aircraft should be capable of operating in Colorado’s high altitude and hot temperature environments. The rotor-wing aircraft should be capable of delivering wildfire suppression personnel (helitack crews) to remote locations to facilitate initial attack missions. The rotor-wing aircraft should also be able to carry water or retardant to remote locations in order to support ground-based suppression teams.

Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) – In order achieve the goal of providing the appropriate aviation suppression resources to every fire within 60 minutes of the request and to increase the effectiveness of the SEAT program, it is proposed that Colorado increase the exclusive-use SEAT contract to four aircraft in 2014.

For the past several years, Colorado procured SEATs on an annual exclusive-use contract basis during the wildland fire season. Typically, the contract has been for two SEATs with an option for a third if needed. SEATs are very effective in lighter fuel types such as grass and brush and are most effective during initial attack operations if used as a quick response resource. The efficiency and effectiveness of SEATs is increased if they are located in close proximity to the incident and integrated with ground resources as a support tool.

DFPC will also ensure the maintenance of process for ordering and dispatching aerial firefighting equipment and personnel that is consistent with, and supportive of, the statewide mobilization plan prepared pursuant to Section 24-33.5-705.4, C.R.S. DFPC will provide the technical assistance and program management that identifies local, county, and state resources; their qualification to national standards; and their listing in interagency zone dispatch centers and in the Colorado Statewide Resource Mobilization System.

Principal funding for CFAC will be from the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps Fund created in Section 24-33.5-1228 (3) (a), C.R.S. The estimated total program costs for 2014 are $19,670,000.”
Thanks and a hat tip go out to Bean.

Colorado Governor to sign aerial firefighting bill

Colorado Firefighting Air CorpsOn May 12 Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper will sign the legislation recently passed by the House and the Senate that authorizes the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps (CFAC) to acquire a fleet of helicopters and air tankers to fight wildfires. 

The Governor will host a press conference at 11 a.m. at the Centennial Airport where he will sign the bill and give his annual wildfire briefing.

Colorado Senate Bill 14-164 appropriates $19.67 million and specifies that the CFAC purchase, lease, or contract for the use and operation of up to three helicopters in 2014. Beginning in 2015 and beyond the bill authorizes up to four air tankers.

The first version of the bill required certain specifications for the aircraft, including that the helicopters be able to carry 18 passengers and be capable of rappelling firefighters. The air tankers would have been outfitted for dropping retardant at night, something that has never been done on a regular basis.

The bill that passed both the House and the Senate provides maximum numbers of aircraft, but leaves everything else up to the CFAC. The bill requires that the agency adhere as nearly as possible to the recommendations spelled out in a report they released on March 28, titled “Special report: Colorado Firefighting Air Corps, report to the Governor and General Assembly on Strategies to enhance the state’s aerial firefighting capabilities”.

firefighting aircraft bill passed by both houses in Colorado

The legislation also creates a “center of excellence for advanced technology aerial firefighting”, to…:

  • Serve as a laboratory to evaluate the “three fundamental contributing factors to successful aerial firefighting: effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability”.
  • Conduct research to evaluate new technology in a variety of settings, such as initial attack, night operations, and operations in wildland-urban interface areas.
  • Produce data and documentation on science and technology relevant to aerial firefighting.

The press conference will be held at the Centennial Airport, Denver jetCenter, Hangar A, 7625 South Peoria Circle, Englewood, Colorado 80112.

If any FireAviation readers attend the event do us a favor and send us some photos.