Tour of the USFS seaplane base at Ely, Minnesota

This is a very interesting video about the only seaplane base operated by the U.S. Forest Service. It was uploaded to YouTube by David Quam and features USFS Pilot Dean Lee who does an excellent job of patiently describing the de Havilland Beaver DHC-2, three of which are seen at the base: N131Z, N132Z, and N133Z. Mr. Lee says in the video that the USFS purchased them new from de Havilland. FAA registration records shows that they were manufactured between 1956 and 1959.

Mr. Lee explained in the video that the Beavers can scoop water into a 125-gallon tank and drop it on fires. They are also used for wildlife radio tracking, search and rescue, recon, medivac, cargo, and “body hauling”.

While working on the Section 33 Fire in Voyageurs National Park north of Ely in August of 2004 we used one of the USFS Beavers for suppression and recon.

Havilland Beaver Voyageurs National Park
A U.S. Forest Service de Havilland Beaver preparing for a recon flight over the Section 33 Fire in Voyageurs National Park, August 11, 2004. The red object under the belly of the aircraft that looks like a bomb or torpedo is the 125-gallon water tank used to suppress wildfires. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Float planes are very useful in the parts of Minnesota that have as much water as dry land.

Section 33 Fire in Voyageurs National Park
A portion of the Section 33 Fire in Voyageurs National Park, August 11, 2004. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

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

Helitack operations at Cloquet, Minnesota so far this season

The video features helitack operations so far this 2015 fire season at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources base at Cloquet, Minnesota.

Air tanker drop on Sand Lake Complex Fire

(UPDATED at 4:46 p.m. MDT, May 5, 2015)

Sand Lake Fire map 5-5-2015

The map of the Sand Lake  Complex of fires is rather unusual, spread out over six individual fires for a total of 46 acres. All of the fires are contained.

Yesterday fire officials said early indications were that the fires were unintentionally human caused.


(Originally published at 3:53 p.m. MDT, May 4, 2015)

Sand Lake Fire
A water-scooping air tanker begins to make a drop on the Sand Lake Complex of fires near Isabella, Minnesota. Judging from the photo below, the air tanker may have had very quick turnaround times. Inciweb photo.

Firefighters expected to gain 100 percent containment on a series of small wildfires that started late in the afternoon on Saturday, May 2 twelve miles west of Isabella, Minnesota.

Four outbuildings were scorched by the fire and one camper was destroyed.

Law Enforcement is investigating but early indications are the fires were unintentionally human caused.

Sand Lake Complex of fires
Sand Lake Complex of fires. Inciweb photo.

Minnesota DNR begins using Fireboss air tankers

Air Tractor 802-F. Air Tractor photo.

Minnesota’s conversion to the Air Tractor 802F Fireboss appears to be complete. The state’s Department of Natural Resources listed their two CL-215 amphibious water scooping air tankers for sale on their auction site a few months ago, saying they had become too costly and complex to maintain.

Their new fleet consists of four leased Air Tractor 802F Fire Boss amphibious air tankers operated by Aero Spray of Appleton, Minnesota and two other Single Engine Air Tankers. The Texas-made AT 802Fs equipped with Wipaire floats made in Minnesota can scoop about 800 gallons of water in 12-15 seconds and be off the water and on its way again to a fire in as few as 20-30 seconds.

On April 2 the Minnesota Fire Bosses and the two other SEATs took action on 9 fires in the state.


Minnesota converting from CL-215s to Fire Bosses

CD-215 T266
Minnesota’s Air Tanker 266, a CL-215

After running CL-215 amphibious water scooping air tankers for years, the state of Minnesota is selling the two they have and will be converting to single-engine Air Tractor 802F Fire Boss scoopers. The CL-215s served the agency well, but Aero Flite, now owned by Conair, is no longer interested in maintaining and operating the piston engine aircraft for the state. A newer model, the CL-415, has the more reliable turbine engines. The 215’s will be sold at auction, and four turbine-engine-powered AT-802Fs will be hired on contract.

Tankers 263 and 266 are listed on the State of Minnesota’s online auction site. The planes are listed as Lots #12726 & #12727.

Air Tractor 802-F. Air Tractor photo.

Minnesota to contract for 3 helicopters

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has posted solicitations for firefighting helicopters at their bases in Cloquet, Princeton and Roseau. Here is an excerpt from their web site:

Service of a helicopter that is fully operated by qualified personnel, and equipped to meet specifications for use in administration, management and protection of lands from wildfire in Minnesota. The types of services which aircraft would generally be required to perform, but not restricted to are: Transportation of personnel, Equipment and supplies, Reconnaissance flights, Fire detection flights, Photography work involving, prolonged slow flight, Helicopter–bucket and fire missions, Administrative flying, Incident Support. Project Technical information contact: Bill Schuster at 218-327-4573.