Monday, October 20, 2014

Flying today -- east central Pennsylvannia

It has been awhile since I wrote about my scenic flights. I have a few great pilots that take me on this scenic flights. Today I went flying with a pilot I met about six weeks ago. A few weeks ago, we flew up to northwestern New Jersey, almost into New York and followed the Delaware River down south to our home field. I learned a valuable lesson on that flight. Wear dark clothes and put away the aviation charts. When we flew the Delaware River, I had an aviation chart in my lap. Long story short, a reflection of the chart showed up in my photos, ruining most of my pictures.

 Today, after three or four cancellations due to bad weather, we finally flew to Wilkes Barre PA and followed the Susquehanna River south before flying east to return home. This time I had my chart in a black folder on my lap. Most of the photos are of the Susquehanna.

It was a great day to go flying, calm winds aloft, nice fall colors, and the restoration that comes with flying. My pilot and I had a great time. I came back feeling restored, as I always do after I spend time in the air.

Central PA, east of Wilkes Barre.

Central PA, east of Wilkes Barre.

Wind Turbines, Central PA, east of Wilkes Barre.

Wilkes Barre PA, Susquehanna River

Wilkes Barre PA, Wyoming Valley Airport, Susquehanna River

Wilkes Barre PA, Susquehanna River

Susquehanna River, Central PA

Susquehanna River, Central PA

Susquehanna River, Central PA

Susquehanna River, Central PA

Sunbury PA, Susquehanna and West Branch Susquehanna Rivers

Sunbury PA, Susquehanna and West Branch Susquehanna Rivers

Susquehanna River, Central PA

Susquehanna River, Central PA

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rebuilding historic fire tower in Utah

Those men and women who staff fire towers play an important role in spotting wildfires. The New Jersey Forest Fire Service has several fire towers around the state. My interest in fire towers started when I passed fire towers while hiking some trails in Northern New Jersey and in the Pine Barrens. When I go flying courtesy of one of my pilot friends, when I know that a fire tower is near our route, I'll look for them, they are good visual reference points

I have known that other States use fire towers, so when I ran across a nice video on the NJ Forest Fire Service Section B10 video of the week page (updated weekly) today on a fire tower in Utah that has been restored, I just had to share it with you.

direct link to video on youtube

Update on Reflections on Writing About Wildfires

The other day I wrote an article that I called Reflections on Writing About Wildfires. I had originally intended this to be a two-part article, but I reconsidered. This is now a one-part article, that I revised yesterday. Those of you who are coming here looking for part two, there isn't one. You might want to go back and look at the article I wrote the other day on Reflections on Writing About Wildfires (revised). I'll be back later today with another article.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Reflections on writing about wildfires

I have some wonderful friends and family who are supportive of the time I spend writing this blog on aerial wildland firefighting. I remember a few years ago when there was a large wildfire in California that I was following, mitt have been the Station Fire. I had been putting in long hours watching live stream, reading articles and otherwise keeping abreast of the situation. And of course, I was learning. I still am learning.

Anyway, I ran into these friends, and you told me that they knew about the fire, that you were thinking of me. And for those of you reading this who are in the business of wildland firefighting, they were thinking of you too. I had only been focusing on aerial wildland firefighting for a few months at the time, so I really appreciated the support of my friends.

The support of my family and friends goes on. Sometimes it is a comment about a fire that they have heard about in the news. Or it might be a supportive comment after a tragedy. Sometimes a question which if I can't answer (always a possibility), I can usually find a good answer for them. I especially love telling my friends that we have SEATs here in NJ during our spring wildfire seas.

Over the years that I've been writing this blog about aerial wildland firefighting, I've made some friends in the business, aerial wildland firefighters and those who fight wildfires on the ground. I learn from you.

Various people send me information and articles, I appreciate the thought that goes into this. Some of you are in the business, others are not but have read something that you thought I'd be interested in. I often find ways to include this information in my blog either directly or indirectly. I always learn from these little tidbits of information.

I want to thank my friends and family, new and old for your suppport. And for the friends I do not know, who read this blog, thank-you.

Revised on October 16, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

To Wildland Firefighters

To Wildland Firefighters:

Over the years that I have been writing this blog on aerial wildland firefighting, rarely a day or so goes by when I don't think about what you are doing to keep us safe whether you be on the ground or in the air. Regular readers know that I am neither a wildland firefighter on the ground, nor am I a licensed pilot, nor am I in a position where I provide direct support to wildland firefighters. While I have no direct experience fighting wildland fires and can not know "first hand" the dangers involved, I know that what you do is dangerous.

As wildland firefighters in the air you are flying at low levels and at slower speeds, often in turbulent conditions. You often fly where smoke hampers visibility. You might be flying in mountains or canyons which provide their own issues. You do so to provide support to those on the ground, working with them to contain the fire. You are aware of the danger involved in flying fires and you do this anyway because it is what you do. You fly fires. You might be in an air tanker, a helicopter, a lead plane, or perhaps another kind of observation aircraft. Then there are all those who support you and maintain your aircraft at your base.

If you are a wildland firefighter on the ground you face another set of dangers as you work to contain the wildfire. You could be part of a ground crew perhaps carrying a chain saw, or in a bulldozer. You might be part of the crew of an engine. You follow the 10 standard fire orders and the 18 watchout situations and LCES while fighting fires, following these orders and being alert for the watchout situations help you to stay safe. You carry a fire shelter. You wear protective gear. Even with all these protections, there is danger.

I don't want to forget those of you who are dispatchers, you work the dispatch centers sending crew and equipment to wildfires.

You are often away from your families for months at a time, with a few days here and there where you might be able to go home. If you are on a ground crew, you may be sleeping outside while you are working a wildfire. If you are flying an aircraft, you may be staying at a hotel. You form close bonds with those you serve with, a brother/sisterhood. When one of you dies, you grieve.

As I write this, wildfire season continues in California and elsewhere in the Western United States. Australia is gearing up for their Wildfire season. And there may well be other areas of the world gearing up for a wildfire season that I am not mentioning.

Where ever you are, I want you to know that I am thankful for what you do, whether you are on the ground or in the air. You keep us safe from wildfires. Stay safe out there. And know that I and many others care about you and want you to stay safe.

Friday, October 10, 2014

RIP Craig Hunt

Rest in Peace Craig Hunt.

There is a nice photo gallery on CAL FIRE's facebook page (should be publicly available) of the October 8th ceremony transferring the body of CAL FIRE pilot Craig Hunt (pilot of T-81, crashed on October 7th near Yosemite National Park). Go here to see the photo gallery from CAL FIRE.

Jim Barnes, a close friend of Craig's, wrote a nice tribute to Craig on the Associate Aerial Firefighters webpage on October 9th, the tribute may be found here.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

CAL FIRE ID's pilot

I wrote earlier today about the crash of CAL FIRE Tanker 81. A couple of hours ago, CAL FIRE Department Information Officer Daniel Berlant tweeted that the pilot of of T-81 that crashed on October 7 has been identified as Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt, 62 of San Jose, CA.

I offer my heartfelt prayers and condolences to Craig's family, friends, colleagues, and all who love him. Craig, may you always fly in favorable tail winds.

CAL FIRE's memorial page for Geoffrey "Craig" Hunt

Obtained on October 8, 2014 from

CAL FIRE S-2T Tanker 81 down

It is with great sadness that I come here today to write that CAL FIRE S-2T tanker 81 crashed near Yosemite late afternoon on October 7 while fighting the Dog Rock Fire. The pilot did not survive. The name of the pilot has not yet been released pending notification of all family members. Prayers and condolences for family, friends, colleagues of the pilot. May you always fly in favorable tail winds. Link to news release from CAL FIRE

Obtained on October 8, 2014 from
October 8, 2014 at 5:45 PM A couple of hours ago, CAL FIRE Department Information Officer Daniel Berlanttweeted that the pilot of of T-81 that crashed on October 7 has been identified as Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt, 62 of San Jose, CA. I offer my heartfelt condolences to Craig's family, friends, colleagues, and those who love him. Craig, may you always fly in favorable tail winds.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Hello Helos

For Matt (RIP), I know how much you enjoyed helicopters, so I dug up some different helicopter videos for you. I know that you are  flying in favorable tail winds.

Kaman K-Max (no tail rotor)

direct link to video

Columbia Helicopters (Tandom Rotor), pilot's view

direct link to video

Erickson Air Crane moving snow

direct link to video

Friday, October 03, 2014

Helos over a wildfire in British Columbia Canada

I know that I haven't written much about my friends in Canada this fire season. I understand that my friends in British Columbia have experienced a very active wildfire season this year. I'll try to look for an article that I can link discussing or summarizing this year's wildfire season in British Columbia and if I find an article, I'll revise this article.

Updated on October 6, 2014: According to the current statistics page of the British Columbia Wildfire Management Branch, as of October 5, 2014 there have been 1,428 wildfires that have burned 359,260 hectares (1 hectare equals approximately 2.47 acres). Some statistics and averages for the prior ten years may be found on the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch Fire Averages Page. Of note, in 2010 1,673 fires burned 337,149 hectares with the next highest year being 2003 with 2,473 fires burning 265,053 hectares. By the way, the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch Current Situation Page has some links to current statistics, fire averages, and other useful information.

In the meantime, regular readers will know that I love watching helos dipping and working fires. I came across this video today thanks to my friends at the NJ Forest Fire Service weekly video page (there may be a different set of videos from what I accessed today). There are some great aerial shots taken from the helo of dipping and bucket work over a wildfire that burned in August 2014 North of Ft. Grahame near the Finlay River in British Columbia.

direct link to video on youtube

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

What wildland firefighters are about

I've had one of those days, I meant to write something else for today's entry. But got involved taking care of some rather mundane but important tasks on my computer following an upgrade to my operating system late last week. So, I thought I'd share this video from the US Forest Service called "The Heart of a Firefighter."

direct link to video

Monday, September 29, 2014

King Fire (CA) - 89% contained today

Things in the world of wildfires can always change. As I write this article, the King Fire that has been burning since September 13th is at 89 percent containment thanks to recent rains (see this article from the LA Times (with photos)). Hopefully weather and related conditions will allow for continued progress in fighting this wildfire.

Some of you may have noticed that for the last week or so, I had been posting a short update on the King Fire on the right side of this blog. If the fire remains at or above 89 percent containment I will no longer be posting those short updates. If the situation should change for the worse then I'll resume those short updates. For those of you who want to read my earlier articles covering the King Fire, see my articles of September 17th and September 19th

Anyway, as of today's update on Inciweb's King Fire Page, the fire has burned 97,099 acres. A total of 80 structures have been destroyed including 12 residences. Six people have been injured. There was a fire shelter deployment a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, no one was injured. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today wrote about the the deployment here and a second article about the role a pilot had in helping the groundcrews involved in the shelter deployment here.

The King Fire has a freely available Facebook Page with daily updates and pictures. The King Fire Page on Inciweb has a page with photographs.

I may have been involved in other projects last week, my mind has never been far from the ground and air crews who have been working the King Fire and other wildfires that are currently burning. You've done good work and I know that the residents in the community affected by wildfires appreciate what the firefighters are doing to keep them safe.