Russian plane transports three fire engines from New Jersey to California

September 13, 2020 | 9:05 a.m. PDT

Antonov-124-100 transports New Jersey engine to California
An Antonov-124-100 transported three New Jersey fire engines to California. Photo: San Francisco Fire Department, September 12, 2020.

An Antonov-124-100 transported three New Jersey Forest Fire Service engines and 10 firefighters to San Francisco on Saturday.

Volga Dnepr operates 12 of the aircraft.

Antonov-124-100 transports New Jersey engine to California
An Antonov-124-100 transports New Jersey fire engines to California. NFFS photo by Michael Achey.
Antonov-124-100 transports New Jersey engine to California
An Antonov-124-100 transported New Jersey fire engines to California. Photo: San Francisco Fire Department, September 12, 2020.

And, speaking of very large airplanes, the image below is a screenshot from a great video on Helga Desclouox’s Facebook page of a DC-10 dropping on the Almeda Fire in Southern Oregon, September 8, 2020.

DC-10 dropping Almeda Fire Oregon September 8 2020
DC-10 dropping on the Almeda Fire in southern Oregon. Screenshot from video by Helga Descloux.

The image above of a DC-10 dropping on the Almeda Fire in southern Oregon is a screenshot from a video on Helga Desclouox’s Facebook page.


It was “by far the toughest flying I have ever done”, said helicopter pilot about rescuing trapped people at the Creek Fire

Over 300 were rescued

rescued by California National Guard helicopter
Civilians in a Chinook that were rescued by a California National Guard helicopter and crew. CNG photo.

As of noon Tuesday, California National Guard and U.S. Navy helicopters had rescued 362 people and 16 dogs that had become trapped as roads were blocked by the fast moving Creek Fire northeast of Fresno, California. Civilians extracted from the Edison Lake and China Peak areas were flown to the Fresno airport in Blackhawks, Chinooks, and a Navy Seahawk.

Rescued people arrive at Fresno Creek Fire
People who were rescued from the Creek Fire arrive at Fresno airport September 8, 2020. California National Guard image.

Examples of their missions Tuesday at Lake Edison:

  • A Stockton-based Cal Guard Ch-47 chinook evacuated 46 people and four dogs.
  • A U.S. Navy SH-60 Seahawk helicopter rescued 17 people and one dog.
  • Two Cal Guard UH-60 Black Hawks and one CH-47 Chinook rescued 65 people.

Not all of the attempts to rescue people were immediately successful. On some missions poor visibility caused by smoke forced pilots to abort and try again later. Some of the flights were at night and were accomplished with the assistance of night vision goggles.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Creek Fire click HERE.)

One of the helicopter pilots said in an interview posted at the Sacramento Bee (below) that he has been shot at while flying for the Army but, “[T]he stress and added workload of going in and out of that fire every time is by far the toughest flying I have ever done.”

Map of the Creek Fire
Map of the Creek Fire at 8:41 p.m. PDT September 7, 2020.

Ride with the pilots as C-130 aircraft drop retardant on fires

Video shot from the cockpit as the MAFFS-equipped aircraft battled the fires

MAFFS cockpit video, Calfornia, August 22, 2020 fire
Screenshot from MAFFS cockpit video below, California, August 22, 2020.

Fred Johnson of Airailimages let us know about a video he put on YouTube of California Air National Guard C-130Js fighting fire using a Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS). It was shot by Tech. Sgt. Nieko Carzis of the 146th Airlift Wing as two of the aircraft dropped retardant on multiple fires in California August 22, 2020.

You may hear an audible warning of “Altitude” “Altitude” in the cockpit as the planes descend to make the drop. That warning is much less annoying than the “Landing Gear, Landing Gear, Landing Gear, Landing Gear” warning that the MAFFS crews heard up until around 2014 when the Guard got Lockheed to supply a procedure to turn off the audible Landing Gear warning while making a retardant run. You can hear that warning in video shot in 2013 while MAFFS crews were dropping on the Rim Fire in California.

The recent video has footage shot while the C-130Js are dropping retardant — actually, it is spraying up to 3,000 gallons of retardant powered by compressed air, through a nozzle. Since we’re looking forward through the windshield, we can’t see the retardant of course, but at one point you can hear a sound that I’m guessing is compressed air exiting the nozzle after all the retardant has been expelled.

The footage of the aircraft making the drops is cool, but just as good are the scenes of the fires shot from fairly low level.

MAFFS cockpit video, Calfornia, August 22, 2020 fire
Screenshot from MAFFS cockpit video, California, August 22, 2020.

Firefighters rescued by short haul at night on Woodward Fire in California

Firefighters rescued by long line
Firefighters rescued by long line. Screengrab from Sonoma County Sheriff Department video.

A Sonoma County Sheriff Department helicopter crew rescued two firefighters in Marin County who had become entrapped on the Woodward Fire at Point Reyes National Seashore 23 air miles northwest of San Francisco. They used a long line (or short haul technique) suspended  beneath the the helicopter to retrieve the firefighters. It is not clear when this happened, but appears to have been August 21, 2020.

The video below has graphic language. Here is the report on the incident provided by the Sheriff’s Office:

Tonight, at approximately 8:15 PM, the Marin County Fire Department (MCFD) requested the Sonoma Sheriff’s Helicopter “Henry-1” respond to the area of the Woodward Fire, which is burning in an area of the Point Reyes National Seashore, southwest of Olema. MCFD requested an immediate rescue of two firefighters who had become trapped by fire on a ridgeline and unable to make it out of the path of the advancing fire.
Henry 1 is the only helicopter in the region capable of conducting a vertical reference long line rescue at night. When our Fire counterparts call for help, Henry 1 comes flying.

Woodward Fire map August 23, 2020
Woodward Fire map August 23, 2020. Wildfire Today.

Once on scene, Henry 1 located the two Firefighters, who were trapped approximately 75 yards from the advancing fire.

To complicate the situation further, the fire was creating strong, gusting winds that intensified as Henry 1 flew closer to the head of the fire.
Henry 1 landed approximately a mile from the Firefighter’s location and the Tactical Flight Officer (TFO) configured the helicopter for long line rescue with a 100 foot long line. The TFO subsequently attached himself to the long line and was flown to the location of the firefighters.

Upon arriving at the Firefighter’s location, the TFO placed a Bauman Bag rescue device on one of the firefighters and a Horse Collar rescue device on the other. Having a variety of different pieces of equipment on board at all times enables Henry 1 to quickly adapt to dynamic and dangerous situations. In this instance, Henry 1 was able to lift three people, the TFO and both Firefighters, simultaneously to safety. This enabled the rescue to occur in one attempt, as time was clearly of the essence, and limit the amount of time any of them were in the dangerous situation.

We have included the video from our TFO’s helmet cam, unedited, and it its entirety. This video does contain some graphic language, but we believe it is important for the public to get an accurate representation of how a nighttime long line looks and feels.

Most importantly of all, we are thrilled that both Firefighters are unharmed and in good spirits.

Our society depends on First Responders to charge towards danger and place themselves in difficult situations, such as fighting a wildland fire in pitch black nighttime conditions. Sometimes, even First Responders need a First Responder, and nothing gets to these remote locations faster than Henry 1.

**Warning Graphic Language is in the video**

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jeff and Joseph.

Firefighters resupplied by steerable parachutes

At the August Complex of fires on the Mendocino National Forest in northern California

GPS guided parachute
GPS guided parachute resupplies firefighters with food on the August Complex of fires on the Mendocino National Forest. Screenshot from video.

Firefighters in a remote location on the August Complex of fires in northern California were recently resupplied with four days of food via four GPS-guided steerable parachutes which reportedly descended through smoke. It was the first time four were in the air simultaneously and dropped from over 11,000 feet.

Firefighters reported that three landed within 100 feet of the target and one snagged in a tree and was recovered.

The video was posted on the Mendocino National Forest Facebook page.

More about the August Complex of fires and other ongoing fires in California.

Pilot killed in crash of firefighting helicopter near Coalinga, California

August 19, 2020  |  5:12 p.m. PDT

N711GH Guardian Helicopters
N711GH, Guardian Helicopters photo.

A pilot was killed August 19 in the crash of a helicopter while working on the Hills Fire, approximately 9 miles south of the City of Coalinga. Air and ground resources responded immediately to the crash site which was in rugged terrain.  The pilot was the only person aboard and the name has not been disclosed. Local TV station ABC30 said the helicopter was on a water dropping mission. (UPDATE: the pilot was identified as Mike Fournier, 52, of Rancho Cucamonga, California.)

CAL FIRE released the information about the crash, saying the National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation and CAL FIRE is assisting.

Zoe Keliher, a spokesperson for the NTSB, said the helicopter will be recovered August 20 and moved to a location for further examination. She confirmed that the registration number of the aircraft is N711GH.

Personnel with the FAA said the aircraft crashed around 10 a.m. Wednesday and the accident started a new fire.

FAA records show that it is a Bell UH-1H manufactured in 2009 and owned by Guardian Helicopters, Inc. of Van Nuys, California.

The Hills Fire started Saturday and has burned about 1,500 acres. ABC30 said the fire started by the crash will likely burn into the Hills Fire.

We send out our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and co-workers of the pilot.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Pamela, Jim, and Douglas.

Air tanker base established at Mojave while Fox Field is closed

Mojave airport reload base
The map shows the locations of the air tanker loading pits and the air tanker base office at the Mojave Air and Space Port. USFS map.

The U.S. Forest Service has established a temporary air tanker base at the Mojave Air and Space Port in southern California because the runway at General William J. Fox Airfield is closed while undergoing maintenance. The runway closure means the tanker base at Fox is also shut down.

Air tanker bases are used for staging firefighting air tankers before they are dispatched to a wildfire, and for refilling them with fire retardant to drop on a fire to slow the spread.

The work on the runway at Fox was due to be complete by about this time, but the contractor ran into problems, and it could be another month or two before it is done. Unless, of course, more problems develop.

Mojave Air and Space Port, known in the air tanker community as “Mojave Reload,” is available for Large (LAT) and Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) retardant loading, but is restricted at this time to only DC-10s. The base has two pits that when combined can load a VLAT. At this time Mojave will only reload the DC-10s until such time as there is “appropriate infrastructure in place to service the 747”, according to a memo circulating among the agencies. Mojave Reload can support either two airtankers or one VLAT in their pits.

The tanker base at the San Bernardino airport east of Los Angeles can support both LATs and VLATs.

map Fox and Mojave airports
Map showing the locations of the Mojave Air and Space Port and the General William J. Fox Airfield.

LA County S-70A Firehawk helicopter suffers a rotor strike during training

LACoFD Firehawk H-60 Rotor Strike
LACoFD Firehawk H-16 before Rotor Strike (N160LA). Facebook photo.

One of the S-70A Firehawk helicopters operated by the Los Angeles County Fire Department suffered a rotor strike last week while the personnel were conducting training. Video posted on social media (see below) recorded the event. As Helicopter 16 (N160LA) appeared to be settling down to a landing, a main rotor blade struck a large rock. You can hear the impact and the sound of the helicopter was then very different, changing to a whop-whop-whop that reminded me of the sound of a Huey.

After the impact the ship immediately begin lifting and flew off out of sight. It was later photographed in a field where personnel on a ladder were inspecting one of the main rotor blades.

The knowledgeable person I talked to did not want to have their name disclosed since they were not authorized to discuss the incident in detail.

The helicopter has been repaired and is back in service. The incident occurred around July 30.

LACoFD Firehawk H-60 Rotor Strike
LACoFD Firehawk H-16 immediately after a Rotor Strike (N160LA). Facebook photo.
LACoFD Firehawk H-60 Rotor Strike
LACoFD Firehawk H-16 after a Rotor Strike (N160LA). Facebook photo.

Warning: the video below that shows the rotor strike has coarse language.

LACoFD Firehawk H-60 Rotor Strike
Mechanics checking out the LACoFD Firehawk H-16 after a Rotor Strike (N160LA). Chad Utt photo.
Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter 16
File photo of Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter 16 (N160LA with the open door) at Barton Heliport in Pacoima, California January 26, 2020. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The two brand new S-70i Firehawks that arrived at the Barton Heliport in Pacoima August 4 are basically ready to fight fire. One is 100 percent ready and the other is undergoing some minor changes to the seats. With this boost to the fleet the LACoFD now has 10 helicopters — 5 Firehawks and 5 Bell 412 ships.

The article was edited August 8, 2020 to show that the helicopter involved in the mishap was an S-70A rather than an S-70i.