Jay Widdows sent us these photos he shot June 10 on the Elizabeth Fire north of the city of Ventura in southern California. The fire burned 289 acres. Thanks Jay!
The Forest Service has activated two Call When Needed large air tankers for a 90-day Mandatory Availability Period. This is a guaranteed 90-day contract, not the typical CWN arrangement when they can work a few days and then be sent home.
Tanker 104 (an Erickson Aero Tanker MD-87) is scheduled to start today, May 30, and Tanker 137 (a Coulson B-737) will start June 1. Their administrative bases will be Porterville and McCall, respectively.
After these are on board, there will be 15 large and very large federal air tankers on duty. For the United States. In 2002 there were 44 on exclusive use contracts.
This is Air Tanker 137, a B-737 operated by Coulson Aviation. It’s one of two 737s they have converted to air tankers. They sold the other one to New South Wales in Australia a few months ago.
This aircraft, T-137, made the first ever drop on a fire by a 737 November 22, 2018 during the recent 2018-2019 Australian summer while it was on contract down there before the other 737 was delivered to NSW. It made its first drop in the United States around the first of August this year.
Britt Coulson said the company substituted T-137 for their T-132, an L-382G that was on a Call When Needed Contract, taking the place of it on the list.
Obviously Coulson Instagrammed the photo, but if someone knows the photographer’s name, we will add it here.
The video below shows Air Tanker 137, a Boeing 737, dropping on the Bruxner Highway Fire (Tenterfield LGA) in New South Wales, Australia.
A Blackhawk and an Air-Crane can be seen in the video below working on a wildfire in New South Wales, Australia.
Aircraft continue to work on slowing the process of the #Tingah fire allowing firefighters on the ground to directly attack and extinguish the fire. This will continue over the coming days as they work to contain the fire. #NSWRFS pic.twitter.com/dDgvO33Okg
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) February 14, 2019
Next, a Blackhawk in New South Wales.
WATCH & ACT: Tingha Plateau (Inverell LGA) – There is a reduced threat to properties. Firefighters continue to work with landholders across the fireground in an effort to contain the fire. #NSWRFS pic.twitter.com/5OB8Ee9vdd
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) February 14, 2019
Below, two helicopters work a fire north of Canadian, Texas.
Below, CAL FIRE helicopter 301 makes a swift water rescue.
The very unusual hot, dry, windy weather that has brought about large wildfires in Queensland, Australia during what is normally their wet season is requiring firefighters to adapt to the new unprecedented conditions. For the first time the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service is using large air tankers to assist firefighters on the ground. In recent days there have been at least three helping out, two RJ85’s and one 737 moved north from New South Wales to Rockhampton, Queensland.
Large air tankers from North America have been working in the states farther south for months, and a third RJ85 has recently arrived to bring the total to six.
Tanker 165 has been in NSW but is moving to a new contract in Victoria. T-165/391 will take its place at Richmond. This is requiring a call sign change and it will become T-391 while in Victoria.
When the Queensland fire situation subsides, the primary basing for the aircraft will be:
- Richmond RAFF in New South Wales: a 737 (T-137), a C-130Q (T-134), and two RJ85’s (T-163 & T-166).
- Avalon airport in Victoria: an RJ-85 (T-165/391) and a C-130Q (T-131).
Most if not all of the North American large air tankers and helicopters working in Australia have adopted names, like Thor, Gaia, Boomer, Hunter, and Rocky — for reasons that are not clear.
On November 22 Air Tanker 137 made the first drop by a Boeing 737 on an active fire. It occurred in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia.
In these photos the aircraft was dropping gel, which clings to the vegetation and retains the moisture.
Coulson completed the conversion of the 737 a few months ago and it is now working on a contract with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service during their summer. Nicknamed “Gaia”, it arrived at Richmond RAAF Base near Sydney November 11 after a multi-day trip across the equator. It will be primarily based at the RAAF Base along with three other large air tankers from North America — a C-130Q (T-134), and two RJ85s (T-165 and T-166). Two other large air tankers will be based in Victoria at Avalon Airport in Melbourne, a C-130Q (T-131), and an RJ85 (T-163).
The 737 Large Air Tanker ‘Gaia’ has been in action in the Hunter this afternoon – the first time this kind of plane has been used to fight a fire anywhere in the world. It’s provided valuable support to firefighters on the ground. #NSWRFS #nswfires #avgeek pic.twitter.com/qHnbcddFpe
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) November 22, 2018
Going by the coordinates on the images, the fire T-137 dropped on was very close to the Kurri Kurri Hospital southwest of Heddon Greta. The NSW RFS reported at 8:14 p.m. local time on November 22 that firefighters assisted by aircraft had slowed the spread of the fire. They estimated it had burned 61 hectares (151 acres).
Today the New South Wales Rural Fire Service introduced to the media the fourth large air tanker that will be assisting ground-based firefighters in NSW and other Australian states during their bushfire season that is well underway.
The conversion of the Boeing 737 airliner into what Coulson calls a “Fireliner” was just completed a few months ago and has not yet dropped on a live fire. Tanker 137, nicknamed “Gaia”, arrived at Richmond RAAF Base near Sydney November 11 after a multi-day trip across the equator. It will be primarily based at the RAAF Base along with three other large air tankers from North America — a C-130Q (T-134), and two RJ85s (T-165 and T-166). Two other large air tankers will be based in Victoria at Avalon Airport in Melbourne, a C-130Q (T-131), and an RJ85 (T-163).
One of the speakers at the welcoming ceremony said one feature that separates the 737 from the other air tankers is that when it is not carrying 4,000 gallons of fire retardant, it can transport up to 70 firefighters or other passengers.
The NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Troy Grant, announced that $23.6 million will be available for a large air tanker to be permanently based in NWS. This will be a first for the state and the country.