Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Victoria, Australia - Lancefield Bushfire

We are in early fall in the northern hemisphere which means that it is early spring in the southern hemisphere. And with the advent of spring in Australia that means that their bush fire season is underway. So I spent a little time today finding and then bookmarking firefighting agencies in Australia as well as news media sites. 

As fate would have it, I was on the website for the Australia Broadcasting Company (ABC), looking around to see what was going in Australia, in particular were any bushfires making the news. Well, lo and behold, I read a story on ABC about the Lancefield bushfire in Victoria, affecting six towns and burning 4,000 hectares so far. That would be the equivalent of 9,884 acres in the United States. At least 300 firefighters on the ground are working the fire aided by heavy equipment including dozers. Aircraft are helping the crews on the ground. Two residence have been destroyed by this fire which is not yet contained. I found a webpage for the Lancefield Bushfire here (last update at 5:01 AM local time).

I found a report on ABC dated October 6th with some photographs of the Lancefield bushfire here.

The County Fire Authority (CFA) in Victoria has some webpages that may of interest:

Map of incidents and warnings (bushfires) in Victoria (I assume that this map will update with current information so the map you access may have different information depending on when you access the map).

Monday, October 05, 2015

Wildfire in the Siberia region of Russia

Here is a video report from PBS on a wildfire in Russia. Seems like the western United States is not not the only region experiencing hot and dry condtions. The report also speaks to the ecologic affects of this wildfire on this special ecosystem.

Link to PBS report of October 3rd which includes video

Friday, October 02, 2015

USFS announces next gen 2.0 airtanker contract awards

No doubt some of you reading this are already aware that the U.S Forest Service announced yesterday that they have awarded exclusive use contracts to Aero Flite, Neptune Aviation Services, and 10 Tanker Air Carrier starting later this year for seven Next Generation Large Airtankers. This is a five-year exclusive use contract with single-year options for five additional years bringing the total to ten years. According to the U.S. Forest Service Press Release,
The new Exclusive Use contracts for Next Generation Airtankers will go to:
  • Aero-Flite, Inc., Spokane, Washington – 2 Avro RJ85s
  • Neptune Aviation Services, Inc., Missoula, Montana – 4 BAe-146s
  • 10 Tanker Air Carrier, LLC, Albuquerque, New Mexico – 1 DC-10
This will bring the total number of Next Generation Airtankers currently under Exclusive Use contract with the Forest Service to 14. 
An article from the Montana based Missoulian annoucing the award may be found here.

As usual, Bill Gabbert of Fire Aviation provided excellent coverage of this award in an article he posted on October, 1, 2015. I thought that he made an excellent point about past protests of these types of contracts, wondering if this award might be protested, Gabbert says:
Most of the contracts the U.S. Forest Service has attempted to issue in recent years for large and very large air tankers have been protested, which suspends the activation of the contract until the Government Accountability Office adjudicates the dispute. This contract has already been protested by Coulson Aviation and Erickson Aero Tanker even before the closing date of the solicitation. However, the GAO decided in July to deny the protests. But that does not mean that there will not be additional protests now that the contracts have been awarded.
Time will tell.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hurricane Joaquin - Hurricane Hunters are flying

Some of you may recall that I wrote a series on Hurricane Hunters in late summer. Some of you also know that Hurricane Joaquin is in the Atlantic. His exact tract is unknown at this time. 

Yesterday I went to the National Hurricane Center's Aircraft Recon page to see what was going on, and saw that the Hurricane Hunters did fly on  September 29th and are due to fly on today (September 30) and tomorrow (October 1). See below. As I wait for whatever happens in a few days, will Joaquin strike the Mid-Atlantic, I am reassured that the Hurricane Hunters are out flying and gathering observations of Joaquin that the National Hurricane Center will use in their advisories. I believe that the Teal desingation refers to Hurricane Hunters from the US Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron.

Thank-you Hurricane Hunters!

NOUS42 KNHC 291432
         VALID 30/1100Z TO 01/1100Z OCTOBER 2015
         TCPOD NUMBER.....15-126

       FLIGHT ONE -- TEAL 73           FLIGHT TWO -- NOAA 49
       A. 30/1130Z                     A. 01/0000Z 
       B. AFXXX 0311A JOAQUIN          B. NOAA9 0411A JOAQUIN
       C. 30/0715Z                     C. 30/1730Z 
       D. 26.3N 72.4W                  D. NA
       E. 30/1100Z TO 30/1400Z         E. NA
       F. SFC TO 10,000FT              F. 41,000 TO 45,000FT

       FLIGHT THREE -- TEAL 74         FLIGHT FOUR -- NOAA 49
       A. 30/2330Z                     A. 01/1200Z
       B. AFXXX 0511A JOAQUIN          B. NOAA9 0611A JOAQUIN
       C. 30/1930Z                     C. 01/0530Z
       D. 26.3N 73.1W                  D. NA
       E. 30/2300Z TO 01/0200Z         E. NA  
       F. SFC TO 10,000FT              F. 41,000 TO 45,000FT

       FLIGHT FIVE -- TEAL 75
       A. 01/1130Z
       B. AFXXX 0711A JOAQUIN
       C. 01/0730Z
       D. 26.1N 73.7W
       E. 01/1100Z TO 01/1400Z
       F. SFC TO 10,000FT

       AND 02/0530Z.



NOUS42 KNHC 301532
         VALID 01/1100Z TO 02/1100Z OCTOBER 2015
         TCPOD NUMBER.....15-127

       FLIGHT ONE -- TEAL 75           FLIGHT TWO -- NOAA 49
       A. 01/1130Z,1730Z               A. 02/0000Z 
       B. AFXXX 0711A JOAQUIN          B. NOAA9 0811A JOAQUIN
       C. 01/0730Z                     C. 01/1730Z 
       D. 24.1N 73.2W                  D. NA
       E. 01/1100Z TO 01/1700Z         E. NA
       F. SFC TO 10,000FT              F. 41,000 TO 45,000FT

       FLIGHT THREE -- TEAL 72         FLIGHT FOUR -- NOAA 49
       A. 01/2330Z,02/0530Z            A. 02/1200Z
       B. AFXXX 0911A JOAQUIN          B. NOAA9 1011A JOAQUIN
       C. 01/1930Z                     C. 02/0530Z
       D. 24.4N 74.4W                  D. NA
       E. 01/2300Z TO 02/0500Z         E. NA  
       F. SFC TO 10,000FT              F. 41,000 TO 45,000FT

       FLIGHT FIVE -- TEAL 73
       A. 02/1130Z,1730Z
       B. AFXXX 1111A JOAQUIN
       C. 02/0730Z
       D. 25.3N 74.5W
       E. 02/1100Z TO 01/1700Z
       F. SFC TO 10,000FT

       G-IV MISSIONS DEPARTING AT 02/1730Z AND 03/0530Z.
       15-126 AS A SINGLE FIX MISSION. A FIX FOR 01/0530Z HAS



Monday, September 28, 2015

Fighting the Mud River Complex of Wildfires in Big Cypress National Preserve FL

I have a special affection for the Everglades National Park and the Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida. My interest in the Everglades stems from my time in graduate school when I did a lot of reading on South Florida, in particular the Everglades National Park and the Big Cypress National Preserve. I recall from my reading that fires have played an important role in the ecology of this region. My studies on South Flordia took place twenty-five years ago. My life took a different turn and I did not pursue my interest in doing more studies on the Everglades and the Big Cypress. That is life. However, my affection for that region of Flordia remains.

About thirteen years ago I spent Christmas week in central Florida. We took a couple of days and took a trip down to South Florida, staying outside of Naples. The day that we drove across Route 41 remains with me to this day. Unfortunately, the pictures that I took do not remain with me. I wish that I had some photos to share with you from that trip, if I can dig them up, I'll revise this post.

Driving across Route 41 was special, we took a side trip and drove through a portion of the Big Cypress Preserve. A special place.

I knew that there were a complex of wildfires, the Mud River Complex, that burned in the Big Cypress National Preserve this past May. The Mud River Complex of fires burned 30,000 acres in the Big Cypress National Preserve. The total acreage of the Big Cypress is 729,000 acres.  Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today covered these fires on May 14th (maps), May 23rd, and May 25th (interviews with firefighters working the Mud River Complex. I checked Inciweb to find that they are no longer listing any information for the Mud River Complex.

When I saw that Bill Gabbert had shared a documentary film on the Mud River Complex in a September 24th post on Wildfire Today, I knew that I had to honor my affection for that part of Florida and share it with you. Perhaps those of you who follow Wildfire Today have already seen the video. If so, I think that it is worth watching again. The video is a little over ten minutes long. You will see some footage of helicopters working the wildfire as well as some aerial footage of some of the areas burned by the fire. I was especially struck by the work that went into saving areas were wildlife feed and raise their young. Here is the direct link to video that I am embedding below. Please go to the link and read more about this video by clicking more.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Reflections on the drought in the Western USA and aerial firefighting

Like many of you who do not live in the Western United States, my thoughts frequently turn to the four year drought that has been impacting California and other western States. And because I write this blog on aerial wild land firefighting, I wonder about how the drought might or might no be affecting aerial wildland firefighting. While I have no first hand knowledge, I do understand that water sources out West are drying up. 

Obviously, I am not in the position to witness first hand all the work that our wild land firefighters, on the ground and in the air, have done to fight wildfires in this awful fire season. However, I do know that tankers and helicopters are flying fires. Helos are dipping, somewhere. Perhaps helps have to fly a little further to find a water source to dip from or perhaps there are portable dip tanks aka “pumpkins” set up. But they are dipping. Likewise, tanker bases have water to mix retardant. 

I recall from conversations with my tanker pilot friends that it is necessary to wash the retardant off of the bellies of tankers at least every few days. Washing retardant off of the bellies of air tankers must take an awful lot of water. I would think that tanker bellies are still being washed.

I have been thinking about helicopters recently, helitankers and helos with buckets. I know that some water sources that helos had used for dipping in prior years are drying up. I wondered what the helos are using for alternate water sources. I have known about the use of pumpkins for dipping, especially in more remote locations. I figured that pumpkins might be playing an increased role, but was not certain. I recently got an answer to this question, at least as applies to the Nevada National Guard and the Nevada Division of Forestry from a recent article in Vertical Magazine (thanks to Mike Archer of Wildfire News of the Day, subscription information available here)

The article discusses water sources that could have been once used by helicopters to dip that are too dry now, preventing them from using these water sources to dip from.

Fortunately the Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF) has a work around for the problem of drying up water sources in Nevada, discussing different options:
For example, NDF has the capability to pump water from low-standing sources into portable pools, or ‘pumpkins,’ to pick up and drop on fire lines. 
The Guard’s buckets include pumps that can fill the buckets to capacity when the pumps are submerged in at least 18 inches of water. Those bucket pumps are being used more in drought conditions this year. much of the firefighting this summer has occurred to Nevada's west in California where Nevada Guard aviators have deployed for firefighting missions.
I am glad to have learned that the NDF and the Nevada National Guard have the ability to use some water sources that are too low to be used for conventional dipping. I learned something, which is always a good thing.

The Vertical Magazine article that I cited above refers to using pumps to pump water into pumpkins. I am pretty certain that there are other means to fill the pumpkins, portable water tanks would be one. Another option could be fire hydrants that might be in a reasonable proximity to the wildfire.

I wonder about water sources for the CL 215/415 scoopers. Are some water sources too low for the scoopers to use? Fortunately, I understand that the scoopers can be refilled at tanker bases if need be.  
I’ll try to continue to follow how the drought out West is affecting aerial resources used to fight wildfires and I'll report back if I learn something. In the meantime, I know how hard wild land firefighters in the air and on the ground are working. I know that their families and loved ones miss them. Stay safe everyone.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

wildland firefighting: aerial and ground resources working together

I had something else in mind for today, but it wasn't exactly working out. I decided to take a little more time on that post.

I decided to show you some video of ground and aerial resouces working together to fight a wildfire. I had bookmarked this video (below), and think it will do the trick. This is footage shot on August 16th (2015) by durlingmeda of a brush fire in Montebello CA. I love this video because you see groundpounders, a dozer or two and tankers and helos working this fire. Everyone working together to contain the fire. Forgive me if you have seen this video before, I may have shared it last month on my video of the week page. But those videos are only up for a few days before I post another one. What I share here has some more permanance.

direct link to video 

Monday, September 21, 2015

California wildfires update -- Sept 21st

There is some news on the two wildfires that I have been following for the last week, the Valley and Butte fires. According to the California Statewide Fire Summary for September 21st, the Valley Fire (Lake County) has burned 75,781 acres, 1,050 residences have been destroyed, and is at 70 percent containment. The Butte Fire (Amador and Calaveras Counties) has burned 70,760 acres, destroyed 545 residences, and is at 74 percent containment.

CAL FIRE has issued these news releases on three civilian casualities in the Valley Fire. According to the Butte Fire incident page from CAL FIRE, there have been two casualties due to the Butte Fire, I believe that these are civilian casualities. My sincere condolances go to the families and friends of those who died in these fires.

CAL FIRE's incident page for the Valley Fire may be found here.

Meanwhile, The Tassajara Fire (Monterey County) was first reported on Saturday, September 19th. To date, 1,086 acres has burned with 30 percent containment. There has been on civilian casuality and one residence has been destroyed, that of a firefighter. Evacuations remain in place. Airtankers and helicopters are working the fire. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today is covering the Tassajara Fire here (with maps and a video). The San Francisco Zen Center has created a webpage with updates on the Tassajara Fire that may be found here.

Daniel Berlant, the CAL FIRE Chief of Public Information has a twitter account where you may find updates.

I'd like to again take this opportunity to thank all the wildland firefighters in the air, on the ground, your support staff, and your families who miss their loved ones. Your hard work and sacrifice is appreicated. Let's take a moment to offer our thoughts and meditations. Thank-you

Friday, September 18, 2015

Still more on the Valley Fire

The other day I embedded three videos of the Valley Fire taken by Kent Porter of the Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA). I went to the Press Democrat today to see what they were reporting on the Valley Fire and saw an absolutely stunning blog post by Kent Porter (One Stop Under: The Valley Fire) where he shared his experience covering the Valley Fire last weekend along with some of his photographs. I hope that you take a few moments and look at Kent's blog post. All I can say is that words escape me.

Added on September 20, 2015: In a video uploaded to youtube on September 18th, Kent Porter of the Press Democrat shares about his experience covering the Valley Fire on September 12th.

direct link to video

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

More on the Valley Fire

As I write this, the Valley Fire (Lake, Napa, and Sonoma Counties) has burned 70,000 acres and is at 30 percent containment. The latest information, which may be different when you access the webpage) may be found at the CAL Fire Active Fires Page (scroll to find the Valley Fire). Details on the Valley Fire (link may be slow) can be found at this CAL FIRE page. Hundreds of residences have been destroyed and other buildings are destroyed. Evacuation orders remain in place. Four fire fighters have been injured and one person (civilian) has died. Tankers and helos are working the fire in support of the crews (and equipment) on the ground.

I found some videos from the Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA) onYoutube (here is a link to their Youtube Channel.

The first two videos are very short, under 30 seconds showing some images of the Valley Fire, one close up and the other from a distance. The videographer is Kent Porter of the Press Democrat. Both videos were uploaded on September 12, 2015

direct link to video from the Press Democrat

direct link to video from the Press Democrat

The next video is also from the Press Democrat, showing footage of an apartment complex on fire, shot by Kent Porter. The video was uploaded to youtube on September 13, 2015.

direct link to video from the Press Democrat

The final video from the Press Democrat (videographer unknown) shows some footage from Hot Springs Road after the fire went through. You will see the destruction wrought by the fire. I saw footage of one house that was still standing, many are not.

direct link to video from the Press Democrat (video uploaded on September 15, 2015)