Saturday, July 04, 2015

Happy Fourth of July

I don't have any fancy fourth of July graphics to share. But I do want to take some time out to wish all of you a very Happy Fourth of July. Thanks to the wildland firefighters on the ground and in the air who are working today to keep us safe.

Enjoy a couple of tribute videos, thanking wildland firefighters in the air and on the ground.

direct link to video

direct link to video

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

A little about the Park Hill Fire (San Luis Obsipo County, CA)

I learned about the Park Hill Fire from my friends from the B10 NJ Wildland Fire page when they posted a couple of videos from this fire on their fire video page on or about June 298th (videos may be different when you go the site).

I got interested in the videos, he had a couple videos from this fire including the first one that I will share with you in a moment. So, I went on youtube and found a couple more videos of tankers dropping on the Park Hill Fire.

The Park Hill Fire (San Luis Obsipo County, CA) was first reported on June 20, 2015, burned 1,791 acres, destroying 2 homes, 4 mobile homes, 2 RVs that were primary residences, 10 outbuildings and 7 vehicles. Four people were injured. The fire was 100 percent contained on or about June 24, 2015.

This video, one of several that SLOStringer recorded while the Park Hill Fire was burning was sbot the afternoon of June 20th. For example he shot some footage on Sunday morning June 21st showing areas burned, utility crews restringing wires, and some tanker drops. The footage below is from about 6 PM to nighfall on Saturday, June 20th (allow 9 minutes to watch the video).

direct link to video

Here is a video, also by SLOStringer, of what I think is T-60 (a DC-7) dropping on the Park Hill Fire:

direct link to video

I finish off with a video uploaded by Louis Haddad of a DC-10 tanker dropping on the Park Hill Fire.

direct link to video

Nice job everyone! Thank-you ground and air crews for keeping us safe.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Public Safety Video from NIFC on danger of UAS/drones near wildfires

When I wrote my two posts last week (June 24th and June 26th) about the danger of UAS/drones flying near wildfires, I did not know about this wonderful short public safety video produced by the National Interagency Fire Center. Thanks to the wonderful reporting of Bill Gabbert of Fire Aviation, I only learned of this video just this morning (see Bill's June 26th post. Too bad that I only learned of this video after making those two posts on UAS/drones last week, the video would have made a nice companion to either article. Oh well, such is left.

The video is short, about 30 seconds, and well worth watching, and sharing.

direct link to video from NIFC on Youtube

Friday, June 26, 2015

Drones (UAS) shut down air operations over wildfires in San Bernardino NF (CA)

A few hours after I wrote if drones (uas) are flying near wildfires airtankers and helicopters can't fly on June 24th, a "hobby drone" was spotted over the Lake Fire (San Bernardino National Forest, CA) shutting down air operations over the fire, see the June 24th evening update from the Inciweb Lake Fire incident page.

CAL FIRE reported on their Facebook page on June 24th:
Tonight a hobby drone grounded firefighting aircraft by flying over the Lake Fire in San Bernardino County. When you fly...we CAN'T! Puts our pilots and firefighters lives at risk. Drones near wildfires are not safe.
As I understand it, the drone (UAS) was spotted around 5:30 PM local time on June 24th flying between two aircraft, an Air Tactical Group Supervisor and a lead plane. All aircraft (including air tankers) who had been working the Lake Fire that evening were grounded. See this article from KTLA 5 in Los Angeles for more information (including the video reporting on this incident which I hope is embedded below) on this incident. I understand from the KTLA 5 reporting that drone was flying at about 800 to 900 feet over the fire. Air operations over the Lake Fire resumed yesterday morning sometime after the video report was made.

You may also want to read an excellent article (dated June 25th) that just came to my attention by Jim Steinberg and Joe Nelson of the San Bernardino Sun discussing the danger drones (UAS) pose to air operations over wildfires, a discussion of the current FAA regulations affecting drones (UAS) and an interview with a drone operator. Steinberg's and Nelson's article (with video clip from Mike Eaton, US Forest Service Aviation Officer discussing the incident) may be found here.

Just last night (June 25, 2015), another drone (UAS) was spotted over the Sterling Fire in San Bernardino National Forest. According to the report on the Sterling Fire Inciweb incident main page on June 26th (10:26 AM):
Drones temporarily halted tanker operations, but operations soon resumed. One drone was interfering with fire operations and has not been located. A second drone was reported by a concerned citizen and it was located. After reviewing the footage it was determined that it was not interfering with fire operations.

Updates to Inciweb's individual incident pages for wildfires are updated on a regular basis, sometimes a couple of times a day, when the fire is active. Unless otherwise specified, links to Inciweb incident pages in this article are for the latest update and may not reflect information referred to in this article.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

If drones (UAS) are flying near wildfires, airtankers and helicopters can't fly

downloaded from on June 24, 2015

Writing about the various in and outs of Unmanned Aircraft Systems or UAS (sometimes referred to as "drones" is beyond the means of this blog, at least at the moment. I'll post a couple of links where you can go for more information on UAS later. I do, however, want to point out that UAS flying in the airspace in or near wildland fires may shut down air operations, including but not limited to air tankers, helicopters, and lead planes. These pilots are already flying on the edge, in very dangerous condtions. Don't make an already dangerous situation even worse for the pilots. A collision with a drone/UAS could be fatal for the pilots. Don't fly your UAS/drone anywhere that is even remotely near a wildfire.  Just don't do it.  The US Forest Service has written some guidance on how UAS threatens wildland firefighter safety and aerial operations, that may be found here.

The US Forest Service has a web page on Unmanned Aircraft Systems that includes a variety of links to information to the FAA. If you scroll part way down the page, you will see a section called "Hobby or Recreational Use of UAS on National Forest System Lands"(I got the graphic I shared here from that portion of the website).

Bill Gabbert of Fire Aviation has written extensively on UAS, with a focus on UAS and wildland firefighting operations, here is a link for some of Bill's articles tagged Drone/UAV/UAS with the most current article at the top.

The FAA has a variety of information on UAS, and if you want some more information on safe operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, a good place to start might be to watch a short video that the FAA produced on UAS operations. Other sources of information may be found at the FAA's UAS FAQ page and  UAS Fact Sheet.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Alaska Wildfire Updates (Monday June 22)

June 24, 2015 11:15 AM EDT

Some updates for you on the wildfires in Alaska that I have been following. Before I do so, I again refer you to the following site for information on other fires that are burning in Alaska: Alaska Wildland Fire Information, the Fire Information Map from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, and the latest daily situation report from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center. In addition, you will want to check out Bill Gabbert's June 23rd article, "Alaska -- 46,000 lightning strikes and many fires"

Chisana River 2 Fire

I just went to the Chisana River 2 Fire's incident page on Inciweb to see that the latest update was posted at about 3 AM EDT on JUne 24th (estimated) where they are reporting that the fire has burned 35,000 in a limited protection area of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, and they are estimating that the fire could grow by an additional "2-2,500 acres over the next two days." I am going to stop providing regular updates on this fire, but I will keep on eye on the Inciweb page to see what the fire is doing and report back here as appropriate.

Card Street Fire

The Card Street Fire remains at 7,352 acres burned with 25 percent containment as I write this update. Check out incident information in the Card Street from Inciweb. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today reports in a June 24th article about some of the difficulties wildland firefighters had fighting this fire.

Sockeye Fire

Good news on the Sockeye Fire. I see from yesterday's update (June 23rd) from Inciweb's Sockeye Fire page is at 90 percent containment. Acreage burned has been reduced to 7,220 acres after the completion of more mapping operations. Also see a June 23rd report on Alaska Wildland Fire Information

The Matanuska Susitna Bourough has completed damage assessment in the Borough; 55 residences were destroyed and 44 properties had some damage. See this report from Matanuska Susitan Bourough for more information.

I have no new information at the moment on the Tanana Slough (Dot Lake) Fire at the moment. The last update I have is the one I reported on below (on June 22nd) stating the fire was at 40 percent containment on June 20th.

I have been writing recently about some of the wildfires that have burned recently in Alaska, see for example my post of June 19th. I continue with this today. Please note that when I am refering to inciweb incident pages, that I am linking to the current page, which changes as these inciweb pages are updated, so there may a discrepency with the acreage that I report in an article and that listed on Inciweb, the latest acreage on Inciweb will be the correct acreage.

These are but four of many other fires burning in Alaska, for more information about the fires that I am not reporting on here, please see Alaska Wildland Fire Information, the Fire Information Map from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, and the latest daily situation report from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center

June 22, 2015 3:30 PM EDT

Chisana River 2 Fire

At the time that I write this on Monday June 22nd at 3 PM EDT, Inciweb is reporting on their Chisana River 2 Fire incident page (last updated June 21st, about 8 PM EDT) that the fire has burned 28,889 acres in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, with an increase in acreage burned of about 18,00 acres since I last reported on the fire on June 19th. According to the incident overview:
The fire is burning in a limited protection area and no suppression efforts taken thus far. Federal land managers have opted to let the fire take its natural course, as fire in the boreal forest of Alaska is an essential process that restores ecosystem health and helps to maintain species diversity.
Card Street Fire

As of Monday, June 22nd (3 PM EDT) the Card Fire has burned 7,352 acres according to the latest incident information from Inciweb (updated about 2PM EDT on June 22nd) and is at 25 percent containment.

I thought you might enjoy these videos from the Alaska News Dispatch that they posted on Youtube. In addition to their great videos, the Alaska News Dispatch (ADN) is a good source of current information about any wildfires burning in and around Anchorage, AK. You will see an Airtanker and  helicopter with bucket working the fire in the first video. In the second video you will see ground crews doing a controlled burn. Both videos were uploaded on June 17, 2015.

direct link to ADN video on Youtube

direct link to ADN video on Youtube

Sockeye Fire

Wildland firefighters, assisted by Airtankers and Helicopters, have made progress. As I write this article at 3 PM on June 22nd, the Sockeye Fire is at 7 percent containment having burned 7,264 acres. Evacuations have been lifted and ground crews and aircraft are being released to other fires. The last Inciweb incident update for this fire was updated on June 22nd about 1 PM.

Here is a video from the Alaska News Dispatch you might enjoy.

direct link to ADN video on Youtube

Tanana Slough Fire (near Dot Lake)

The last update I have about this fire is from Alaska Wildland Fire Information on June 20, 2015 reporting that this 730 acre wildfire was at 40 percent containment on June 20th.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Alaska wildfires -- updates

June 24, 2015, 10:50 AM

Please note that when I am refering to inciweb incident pages, that I am linking to the current page, which changes as these inciweb pages are updated, so there may a discrepency with the acreage that I report in an article and that listed on Inciweb, the latest acreage on Inciweb will be the correct acreage.

Unfortunately, when I posted this on June 19th at both 10:15 AM and 4:20 PM, I probably failed to notice updates in acreage burned in the Chisana River 2 Fire, which as I write this update has burned 35,000 acres in the Wrangall-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, in a limited protection area. The latest information on this fire, which changes with each update, may be found on the Chisana River 2 Fire's incident page on Inciweb. I will make some more updates to this and the other wildfires in Alaska that I have been following here, in a little while.

June 19, 4:20 PM, EDT

Card Fire A little while ago I was on Inciweb and checked out their latest incident page on the Card Fire to find out that due to better mapping the current estimate of acreage burned is 7,578 acres. Both KTUU and KTVA have updated their reports to reflect the current estimate of 7,578 acres burned, both are stating that an official from the Alaska Division of Forestry provided an estimated acreage burned figure of 4,400 acres highers, perhaps in error.

No new updates on the Sockeye Fire, the Chisana River 2 Fire or the Tanana Slough Fire (Dot Lake) Fire.

June 19, 10:15 AM, EDT

I wrote about the Sockeye Fire (burning in Willow Alaska) on June 15 (with updates on June 16th and June 17th) and I wrote about the Card Fire burning near Sterling Alaska on the Kenai Pensulia on June 17th (along with the Tanana Slough Fire and the Chisana River 2 Fire). There are other wildfires currently burning in Alaska, I focus here on the ones that I have already written about. See Alaska Wildland Fire Information for information on these and other wildfires burning in Alaska

Wondering about the Airtankers from Canada and the United States working the wildfires in Alaska? Then you will want to see Bill Gabbert's reports on Fire Aviation. In a June 17th article Bill reports on Fire Aviation that Canada sent seven Air Tankers to Alaska with Alberta sending a Convair 580 and four CL-215Ts (scoopers) while British Columbia sent two Convair 580s. On June 18th, Bill reported in Fire Aviation that the three Air Tankers from the United States are in Alaska: RJ85 T-160 from Aero-Flite, BAe-146 T-10 from Neptune Aviation, and MD87 T-101 from Aero Air.

Card Fire

As I write this, the Card Fire both KTUU (with photos) and KTVA (with photos) (both are in Anchorage, Alaska) are reporting that the fire has burned 12,000 acres and is not contained. Evacuations are in places with reports that 11 structures have been burned. Firefighters on the ground have been aided by Airtanker and helicopters dropping on the fire. I have seen photos on both KTUU and KTVA of Neptune Aviations BAe-146 T-10 dropping on the fire and a helo and bucket. I expect that there are other tankers and helos working the fire.

Inciweb now has an incident page devoted to the Card Fire where as I write this the last update reports that the fire has burned 9,000 acres.

direct link to KTVA video on Youtube (published on June 17, 2015)

Sockeye Fire

Meanwhile the acreage burned by the Sockeye Fire has been reduced to 7,066 acres due to better mapping of the fire according to the latest update on Inciweb's incident page for the Sockeye Fire, the fire is at 5 percent containment. Also see reports on the Sockeye Fire from KTUU (with photos and a map) and KTVA (with photos and maps of the Sockeye Fire)

Chisana River 2 Fire in the Wrangaell-St.Elias National Park and Preserve has now burned 10,142 acres according to the latest report from Inciweb.

Finally, Alaska Wildland Fire Information reported on June 18th that the Tanana Slough Fire (Dot Lake has burned 718 acres and is 30 percent contained.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Other wildfires in Alaska

As I had been following the Sockeye wildfire near Willow Alaska (35 to 40 miles north of Anchorage), I got interested in some of the other wildfires currently burning in Alaska. So, I thought I'd write about some of the wildfires here.

I found information on the fires that I mention in this article from Alaska Wildland Fire Information, among other places. I also found information for somethe Card Street Fire and the fire burning near Dot Lake from the Alaska DNR - Division of Forestry Facebook page as well as the Alaska Interagency Management Team Facebook Page

Card Street Fire

direct link to video from KTVA on Youtube

The Card Street Fire started on the afternoon of June 15th, and as burned an estimated 2,000 acres to date. The Card Street Fire is burning near the town of Sterling on the Kenai Pensula about 55 miles southwest of Anchorage, evacuations are in place. I understand that Airtankers dropped on the fire.

Tanana Slough Fire

The Tanana Slough Fire was started by lightning on Sunday June 14, 2015 according to the Alaska Wildland Fire Information report on June 16th. It is near Dot Lake, which is near Tok Alaska. Also see this article from the Alaska Republic. To date this fire has burned approximately 500 acres.

Chisana River 2 Fire

The Chisana River 2 Fire (25 miles west of Beaver Creek, Yukon, Canada) in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park has burned 8,668 acres.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sockeye Fire near Willow Alaska

June 17 at 4:20 PM EDT
Both Inciweb and Alaska Wildland Fire Information (report of June 17th) are saying that 7,555 acres have burned to date. Updates from KTVA 11 (maps, photos, etc) and KTUU. As many as 50 residences may have been burned in the fire. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough (Alaska)  continues to have special page devoted to the Sockeye Fire (I don't know how long the Borough will maintain this webpage once the threat to their community is over). Evacuations continue, and there will be a community meeting tonight.

June 16, 2015 at 3:10 PM EDT
I have read reports that the Sockeye Fire was grown to between 7,500 and 7,600 acres. For example Sockeye Fire information available on the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center's Fire Information Mapping page (I clicked on "Sockeye Fire") reported earlier this morning that 7,512 acres have burned. You might also want to see the reporting of two media outlets in Anchorage, AK: KTTU reporting on Sockeye Fire and KTVA11's report on the Sockeye Fire. By the way, both of these media outlets have done a good job of reporting on the Sockeye Fire.

As I write this update, Matanuska-Susitna Borough (Alaska)  has a special page devoted to the Sockeye Fire, they reported earlier today (June 16th)  that the Alaska Division of Forestry estimates that the Sockeye fire has burned 7,585 acres.

There are some freely available pages on Facebook that some of you might be interested that have information on the Sockeye Fire:

June 15, 2015 2 PM EDT

The Sockeye Fire near Willow Alaska (35 to 40 miles north of Anchorage Alaska in or near the Mat - Su Area Forest) was first reported about 1 PM (local time) on June 14, 2015, quickly burning 6,500 acres. I understand that evacuations are in place According to information obtained from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center's Fire Information Mapping page (I clicked on "Sockeye Fire") 45 structures have been burned including about 20 primary residences. Shelters for those who have evacuated have been set up. Helicopters with buckets, Single-Engine Airtankers (SEATs), and larger airtankers are working the fire. The latest information on the Sockeye Fire from inciweb may be found here.

CBS2-KTTU in Anchorage, AK is covering this wildfire. As I write this, their latest report (with a video and photographs) was posted on June 15, 2015 at 8 AM local time and may be found here. I found a report on the fire from NBC News dated June 15th (with video, photos, and updates), they report that crews from the lower 48 (United States) are on their way to Alaska to help fight this wildfire. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today is reporting on the fire in a June 15th post.

Friday, June 12, 2015

NOAA's WP-3Ds undergoing major overhaul (6 of 6)

As I was scouring the doing my background research gathering information about NOAA's Hurricane Hunting aircraft I did various internet searches. Sometimes I do such searches and I luck out and find some good reliable information that I was not looking for. Such was the case a couple of weeks when I found a media report dated August 2014 from the Tampa (FL) Tribune reporting that both of NOAA's WP-3D Orion Hurricane Hunters will be getting major overhauls over the next couple of years. As some of you may already know, the US Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (with their 10 C130-J Hurricane Hunters) does most of the reconnaissance work of flying into hurricanes and gathering data on the hurricanes.

Back to the overhaul, the Tampa Tribune reported on August 14, 2014 (and I later found a few other references from other media outlets) that the $35 million overhaul will include new wings, refurbished engines, radar upgrades and new avionics. Only one WP-3D will be out of commission at one time, leaving one in service (here is an excerpt from Harold Altman's August 14, 2014 article in the Tampa Tribune:
Aside from new, nearly 100-foot-long wings, the planes, which have each flown more than 10,000 hours a piece and into more than 80 hurricanes each, will be getting refurbished engines and upgraded radar and avionics, says McFadden (Jim McFadden is NOAA's chief of operations at MacDill Air Force Base where NOAA has its Aircraft Operations Center) 
The upgraded tail Doppler radar will have higher resolution data than the current system, while the lower fuselage will have better video processors. The combination will allow the planes to provide quality data, says McFadden. 
'The goal is to keep these planes flying for another 15 to 20 years,'  he says.
Before writing this article, I did another more focused internet search and came across a more current report on the overhaul of NOAA's WP-3D Orions reported on May 26, 2015 by the Atlantic Journal-Constitution (the article is by Tamara Lush of the Associated Press). Lush reports on the installation of the refurbished engines in "Miss Piggy" with photos. Meanwhile "Kermit" is getting new wings at at a Naval Station in Jacksonville. So, "Miss Piggy" will be flying this year (2015) while "Kermit" gets his new wings and next year (2016) it is "Miss Piggy's turn to get new wings.


Now that I know a little more about Hurricane Hunters (from NOAA and the USAF Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron), I do plan on trying to learn even more about what these magnificent aircraft and their crew do as they fly into hurricanes. As I learn more I'll report back here.

Other articles in this series:
Part 1 (June 1): Hurricane Hunters: Introduction
Part 2 (June 3): From NOAA about the WP-3D, dropsondes, and the G-IV
Part 3 (June 5): A little more about the WP-3D Hurricane Hunter mission
Part 4 (June 8): more pictures and videos of NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters
Part 5 (June 10): A small taste of how the NHC uses Hurricane Hunter aircraft data