Friday, October 31, 2014

Historic fire fighting train

I have always liked trains, especially older trains. I grew up hearing my parents talking about cross-country train trips they took in the late 40s and early 50s, wondering what it was like to ride the rails in those days. And I used to have an atlas showing historic train routes in the United States which I lost in a move some years back. I have taken a couple of over night train trips, a lot of fun. Anyway, I digress.

As I was wondering what to write about today, I came upon this video of a historic fire fighting train. I don't know the location, perhaps out west somewhere? Nor do I know the time period. But I loved the video.

direct link to video on youtube

I got curious about trains used for firefighting, whether trains are still being used. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today posted a nice article over four years ago on fire fighting with a train. Bill did a nice job, chock full of information that you rail buffs and firefighting buffs will enjoy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ramona Air Attack Base (Ramona, CA)

Some of you may recall that I spent some time in and near San Diego in southern California over two years ago. And those who know me knew that I was itching to go and visit the closest CAL FIRE air attack base. So my friend and I spent a day, driving first to Ramona to visit CAL FIRE's air attack base at Ramona. For a sense of geography and to see where all the CAL FIRE air attack bases are located, the California Fire Pilots Association has a map with clickable links.

My friend and I had a great time, and the lady at the base was very nice to us, letting us in to look at one of the tankers and answering my questions, I wrote about this visit on July 13, 2012 (with photos).

Why am I writing about this today? Well, I came across a nice article about Ramona Air Attack Base from U-T San Diego written by J. Harry Jones on October 28th. I learned more about Ramona: base operations and aircraft, the new Chief John Francois who oversees all operations, base staff, and one of the S2-T pilots, Bob Forbes. I thought you'd enjoy the article. So I am sharing it here.

Enjoy! And stay safe out there.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Jersey Pine Barrens trip (Oct. 27, 2014)

I had a great time in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Never enough time to see all that I want to see in what is a short day, considering it takes me about 90 minutes (one way) to get there. The weather was great, clear skies with temperatures in the mid to high 60s. Here is a map from Google Earth showing the places in the photos that I share here:

Approximate locations of areas in photos (10/27/14)

As is my habit on every trip to the Pine Barrens, I always stop along Rte 539 a couple miles south of where the 2007 Warren Grove Fire started to see the Pygmy (Dwarf) Pine Plain Forest. It is always special to see how the Pine Plains have come back after the fire. It is a little hard to see the Pygmy Pines from where I took the photos, but trust me, they are there. You may be able to make them out in the distance. What is always remarkable to me when I see this part of the Forest is that I do not see many dead trees. All is green. Compare this to the article I wrote in March 2009 with photos 15 to 19 months after the Warren Grove Fire, taken from the spot.

Stafford Forge Wildlife Management Area, Rte 539, Five minute drive south of start of Warren Grove Fire (10/27/14)

Stafford Forge Wildlife Management Area, Rte 539, Five minute drive south of start of Warren Grove Fire (10/27/14)
Another favorite spot of mine is Pakim Pond in the Brendon Byrne State Forest, about a fifteen minute drive north of the Stafford Forge Wildlife Management Area.

Pakim Pond, September 3 2014

Pakim Pond, October 27, 2014
After lunch, we drove back towards the Brendon Byrne State Forest, and took the road (563) down through Chatsworth driving through the Cranberry Bogs south of Chatsworth.

Cranberry Bogs, south of Chatsworth NJ

Cranberry Bogs, south of Chatsworth NJ

Cranberry Bogs, south of Chatsworth NJ
Finally, we continued down the road to the Mullica River (which joins the Great Bay north of Atlantic City). The photos below are taken on a drawbridge while the gate was down.

Drawbridge over Mullica River (near Greenbrook NJ)

Mullica River looking west

Sunday, October 26, 2014

To the NJ Pine Barrens tomorrow

Tomorrow I am taking a day trip with a friend to the NJ Pine Barrens. One of my very favorite places. I'm not sure that I'll be able to write my usual post tomorrow, so I hope that you will go read about the NJ Pine Barrens at the website of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. There is a lot of good stuff on this site, but I'd like to point you to their page on the Pygmy Pine Plains, a favorite place of mine.

I'll write some reflections and hopefully post some photos from my trip on Tuesday.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Air Tractor 802F Fireboss (Amphibious)

It has been awhile since I posted a SEAT video. Actually, I have had a link to this video filed away in my bookmarks for quite awhile now. I "found this" when I was going through my bookmarks yesterday, doing a bit of computer housekeeping. I'm not quite sure where this video is shot, but that doesn't really matter. It is the Fireboss that matters as well as her pilots who do what they do to keep us safe.

In this video, you will get to know the Air Tractor 802F Fireboss Amphibious Air Tanker. There are some cockpit shots, including shots of scooping from a water body; along with some nice shots of multiple "Firebosses." Regular readers know that I have a special fondness for SEATs. I enjoyed the video and I hope you do as well.

direct link to video

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Twin Falls (Idaho) Helitack

While I am supposed to be doing some reading for an upcoming article I did what I sometimes do and went on Youtube in search of interesting videos. I found myself thinking about helos, perhaps because of my friend Matt who recently passed who loved helicopters (go here). I started out with a video that a friend of mine sent me of helos dipping. Youtube displays related videos on the right side of the page, and I eventually ended up watching a great 13 minute video highlighting the Twin Falls Helitack crew's 2013 season. The video was uploaded by Dave Frey with the whole crew contributing footage.

I love this video because it gave me some insight into what life is like on a helitack crew. As I understand it, the Twin Falls Helitack crew's, based in southern Idaho, primary mission is to do initial attack using a type II helicopter. When the helitack crew is dispatched to a fire, they load up their gear in the helo and fly to the fire where work the wildfire on the ground. They have a nice webpage (here) where you can go to learn more about the structure of the crew, and crew duties, and requirements to be on the helitack crew. 

You will see some footage of the helitack crew on the ground working fires. From time to time you will see shots that were probably taken by one of the helitack crew members of a tanker dropping retardant or a helo dropping on the fire. I like images such as these because I can see what aerial firefighting is all about, supporting the crews on the ground. 

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.