Update September 18, 2020: The video was shot during the Almeda Fire in Southern Oregon September 8, 2020 by Loren Julien. It was just after he put sprinklers on his sister Annette Julien’s house and left the area — the house seen with the wet roof. Ms. Julien told me her house did not survive.
Tim Crippin shot these photos of two air tankers dropping on a fire that had just broken out one mile west of the air tanker base at the Rogue Valley International Airport (MFR) at Medford, Oregon. Here is what he wrote:
I took these pictures of Tankers 103 and 910 dropping retardant on a fast moving brush fire that was racing up the Bear Creek Greenway near I-5 between North Medford and Central Point, OR yesterday (9-9-2020). This fire threatened multiple businesses and structures including a FedEx building and Costco. The city of Central Point was on a Level 3 evacuation shortly after it started due to the rapid spread of the fire.
The fire was only about 1 mile west of the Medford Airport and the tankers and helicopters that were working on the South Obenchain Fire were diverted to this fire. They had 3 air tankers do drops and they were Tankers 60 (missed their drop), Tanker 103 and Tanker 910. Along with multiple helicopters.
I took these pictures near Million Air at the Medford Airport.
The South Obenchain Fire has burned about 12,000 acres 12 miles northeast of the airport.
The pilot killed in the August 24 helicopter crash has been identified as Tom Duffy, 40. The information was released by a publication of the Seventh-day Adventist church, which said he was a lay leader. A news release by the U.S. Forest Service said the accident occurred during a water bucket mission on the White River Fire in Oregon.
The FAA reported the helicopter was N314, SN A94-0032, a Kaman Aerospace K1200, better known as a K-MAX. It is registered to Central Copters out of Bozeman Montana. The company operates several K-MAX ships with the distinctive red and black livery.
The FAA confirmed the crash occurred during firefighting bucket operations.
The White River Fire has burned 1,350 acres 11 miles southeast of Mt. Hood since it started from a lightning strike August 17.
A K-MAX can carry up to about 700 gallons and is rated as a Type 1 helicopter by the Forest Service.
I took these photos of the helicopter while on a motorcycle trip in 2016.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.
August 25, 2020 | 4:07 a.m. PDT
The pilot of a helicopter was killed August 24 while assisting firefighters on the White River Fire in Oregon. According to the U.S. Forest Service the K-MAX helicopter was dropping water in rough terrain when the accident occurred.
Wasco County Sheriff’s Office and Forest Service air and ground resources responded immediately to the site. There will be an investigation into the accident, and the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified. The firefighter has not yet been identified.
The White River Fire has burned 1,102 acres of timber and light logging slash 11 miles southeast of Mt. Hood since it started from a lightning strike August 17. It is being suppressed by 304 personnel and a Type 2 incident management team led by Incident Commander Brian Goff.
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 Jeff.
August 16, 2020 | 1:29 p.m. PDT
A vegetation fire that spread into an auto wrecking yard Saturday was attacked by firefighters on the ground and at least five aircraft. Hundreds of homes were threatened including a mobile home park next door.
Footage from KTVZ showed numerous water drops by an Air-Crane, Helicopter 3AC. At least two Single Engine Air Tankers also worked the fire, as well as two other helicopters, an S61 and a third that may have been a Bell 205, said Brendan O’Reilly, Superintendent of the Prineville Hotshots who was on scene.
Numerous vehicles were on fire in the wrecking yard producing a thick column of black smoke.
“Maybe 25 acres [were burning] in the wildland around several structures, and then about 10 acres in the junkyard although due to the thick toxic smoke and exploding airbags and tires, we couldn’t accurately map the whole perimeter on the ground,” Superintendent O’Reilly said. “I’d never personally seen helicopters used on a junkyard fire. The helicopters were much more effective than SEATs due to the thick black smoke column, but still couldn’t do much except limit spread to adjacent structures. It took structure engines with SCBAs to make any headway in the junkyard itself, but that was after hours of tires and airbags exploding. It was a very interesting evening.”
“Due to the air attack resources we were able to make an aggressive stop on the fire,” said Trish Connolly, Battalion Chief for Bend County Fire Department. “Today we know that we lost two outbuildings and [and there was] damage to a commercial building.”
Evacuations were in effect while the fire was spreading but were lifted late in the day.
Early reports say the fire started east of the railroad that is just east of the wrecking yard.
The video below shows several drops by the Air-Crane helicopter, 3AC.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Brendan.
August 6, 2020 | 7:50 p.m. PDT
Cooper Palubeski sent us photos he took August 3 of firefighting aircraft at Redmond, Oregon. Thanks Cooper!
The tankers were reloading retardant while battling the Fir Mountain Fire south of Hood River, Oregon. Tankers 101 and 163 were dispatched from Redmond, Oregon just after 11:00 a.m. and made four load and returns at the airport.
They got more help around 12:30 p.m. when Tanker 60 arrived from Medford, making several runs on the Fir Mountain Fire before returning to Medford that night.
Last week the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) began Phase Two of an evaluation of using Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT) at night. This phase builds on the training and lessons learned during Phase One which occurred in Grant County in July 2019. ODF’s Aviation Unit has been working with the contractor to develop safety guidelines and procedures for target and firefighter identification for night operations on ODF protected lands. Firefighters from the John Day Unit will again coordinate in the training and evaluation of the operation. There will be increased night traffic at the airport during the week of July 20 as part of the SEAT evaluation activity.
During Phase One the SEAT dropped water on simulated fire targets directed by firefighters on the ground. The SEAT pilot uses night vision goggles to identify the target and all ground resources including fire engines and personnel. Firefighters use verbal cues and hand signals utilizing chem sticks to direct the pilot to target location. During Phase Two firefighters from the John Day Unit received training focused on safety of the pilot, firefighters, observers and ensuring effective application of the SEAT drop as well as operation of the SEAT Base, located at the Grant County Airport. Single Engine Air Tankers are capable of dropping 700 gallons of water, fire retardant, or fire suppressing gel. These drops are intended to slow the spread of the fire and allow firefighters and equipment to build fireline to control and contain the fire. Water will be used during the initial evaluation activities.
Following initial training of ground personnel last week, evaluation of night SEAT proficiency began July 21. The operation is evaluated on safety procedures, effectiveness of the drops, and communication. ODF’s Partenavia aircraft, equipped with a camera and night vision systems, will record and supervise the operation. The aircraft is equipped with thermal imaging cameras for use in fire detection, along with coordinated mapping capabilities.
Upon completion of the night SEAT drop exercises and final evaluation by ODF’s Aviation Unit the plan is for staffing a SEAT at night in anticipation of a lightning event where night operations can be used in actual fire suppression on ODF protected lands.
ODF currently contracts five Single Engine Air Tankers as part of the suppression resources throughout Oregon.