Friday, September 30, 2011

Reflections on the Sunrise Fire sixteen years later

The summer of 1995 in the NY-NJ-CT metropolitan area was a dry one. By the time August 24th rolled around, I believe that eastern Long Island had not seen any rain in twenty-two days. Vegetation was dry, fire danger was high. This was the day that the Sunrise Fire started in the Long Island Pine Barrens near Westhampton. The fire was fueled by very strong winds during the first eight hours, and by thirty-two hours it had grown to over 5,200 acres jumping the multi-lane Sunrise Highway.

Wind driven flames in the eastern end of Long Island, fifty miles east of one of the largest cities in the U.S.

Wind driven flames in an area that had not seen a fire of size and magnitude in some sixty years, when the area was largely agricultural before it was a bedroom community for New York City and suburban office complexes.

Wind driven flames along the Sunrise Highway, one of the main roads into and out of the south fork of eastern Long Island.

Wind driven flames that partially destroyed the Westhampton station of the Long Island Railroad.

Wind driven flames that threatened dozens and dozens of homes and businesses.

Wind driven flames fought by firefighters who wondered if the winds would ever stop driving the flames.

Wind driven flames that were fought by 174 fire departments from Long Island and New York City along with the Army and Air National Guard. Let’s not forget state, regional, and federal crews and resources that came to help.

No one died fighting these wind driven flames.

Wind driven flames that serve as a reminder to those of us in the northeast and the midatlantic regions of the U.S. that major wildfires can happen in our wildland-urban interface.

The winds died down, the fire was under control on Tuesday, August 29.

Only one residence and six “stump jumpers” were destroyed. Seventeen residences, a lumber yard were partially destroyed. It could have been a whole lot worse.

It wasn’t a whole lot worse.

It wasn’t a whole lot worse because of all the men and women who fought the fire.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

T-40 going to Texas

This just in, the Missoulian is reporting that Neptune's BAe-146 T-40 is, or will be soon, on her way to fly wildfires in Texas. T-40 is jet powered and can carry at least 3,000 gallons of retardant. You will want to read the article, and watch a video shot from iside T-40, on this this Missoulian webpage.

Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today reports on T-40's activation here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Thomas and Cherry from Tali Y D on Vimeo.

I am reminded of what flying is really about. Every once in a while I see an Eagle or a Red Tailed Hawk when I am out on a scenic airplane flight. In fact, I had two such experiences this summer. In both cases they were Eagles, one time a pair of Eagles. We humans have to work at flying, To quote a pilot friend of mine, "to the birds it is just flying."

More videos of birds of prey in flight:

Thanks to a good friend who sent me a link to this wonderful video of an owl in flight.

Flight of the Eagle

Monday, September 26, 2011

Honey Prairie Complex Fires still burning

obtained from on September 26, 2011

I was reminded last week during my wonderings on the internet last week that the Honey Prairie Complex Fires that started a lightening strike on April 28 continue to burn. As I write this, it is almost five months later and the fire has burned about 308,780 acres as of September 15, 2011, primarily in the Okefenokee National Wildlfire Refuge. It is 76% contained as I write this. Smoke from these fires have been noticeable recently in the region.

On the web:
Inciweb page on the Honey Prairie Fire
USFWS - Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge -- Honey Prairie Complex Fires
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on Facebook (public)

Vermont is open for business

Those of you who may have been following my blog recently regarding the devastating flash flooding to portions of central and southern Vermont may be discouraged from visiting Vermont. To the contrary, many areas previously inaccessible are now accessible, many roads that were closed are now re-opened, and businesses have worked hard to reopen. So, if you have been thinking about taking a trip to Vermont this fall, I hope that follow through and go to Vermont. Some roads are still closed, but you should be able to get around the central and southern areas of the state.

Vermont resources:

google map of Vermont closures and openings from Irene and other flooding
Vermont Transit Irene Response on Twitter
Vermont Transit Irene Response on Facebook
Vermont Agency of Transportation Irene Response webpage
VT Ski Resorts Use Social Media to Stress They'll Open (report from Vermont Public Radio

updated on July 18, 2013: video that I had embedded here is no longer available. :-(

Friday, September 23, 2011

This just in - BAe-146 receives interim approval

This just in from Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today. Bill just wrote that BAe-146 tanker 40 (Neptune Aviation and Tronos) has received interim approval from the Interagency Air Tanker Board, go here to read Bill's article.


Footage of groundpounders in OR

When I first saw this video, I was reminded that tankers and helos fly fires to support the men and women on the ground fighting wildfires.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Minnesota wildfires

While I was in Vermont, I first heard about the Pagami Creek Fire in Minnesota that has burned 93,699 acres. It started last month, from a lightening strike. There were evacuations.

Here is a report from WISN on Sept. 19. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today reported on the Pagami Creek Fire  on Sept. 21, and Sept. 16, and on Sept. 14.

You will see from Bill's reporting that smoke from this fire had a far reaching impact. In addition, in yesterday's post, he reports on local criticism of the management of the fire.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Airtanker numbers (part 2)

On September 9, a couple of days before I went to Vermont, a friend of mine sent me a link to a statement from US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell on Aircraft Support for Texas, Other Wildfires Throughout the Country.

If you go and look at the document, you will see a list of the (then?) current fleet of aircraft. My curiosity was aroused by the mention that the fleet included "17 Large Air Tankers which have a capacity of delivering an average of over 2000 gals of water or retardant per trip". I went to the EGBCC Airtanker status page to see how many Airtankers are listed. Note that this site is updated daily. As I write this, I am seeing that the Airtanker status listing for Sept. 20, 2011 includes six Convair 580s. This is three more Convairs than I saw listed on September 9, 2011(trust me, ok?) when the Airtanker status listing for that day reflected only three Convair 580s. As an asid, I went to the Airtanker status page yesterday and saw only three Convairs listed.

Ok, so today (September 20, 2011), there are 17 Large Airtankers (11 P-2s plus six Convair 580s) listed on the EGBCC Airtanker status page, which equals the number referred to in Tidwells statement.

Lets talk about the MAFFS (modular airborne firefighting systems) for a moment. I know that there are a total of eight military C-130s (Air National Guard or Reserve). The MAFFS are called up when all other civilian airtankers are working fires. In Tidwell’s statement (referred to earlier), he mentioned “8  military aircraft specially outfitted to fight fires with an average capacity of 3000 gals.” I am pretty confident that these are the MAFFS, and that of the eight C-130 MAFFS, there may be a smaller number that are currently activated. For example, in todays Airtanker status listing, only four C-130 MAFFs are activated. If memory serves, and again you’ll have to trust me on this, there were six C-130 MAFFS activated a week or so ago. So, at least in regards to the MAFFS, there is some fluidity in the number that may be activated at any one time.

One of the reasons that I am talking about airtanker numbers (again) is because I want to refer you to a very nice article that Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today wrote on September 13, 2011 and updated on September 14. He refers to the same statement by Tidwell that I discussed earlier, offering his analysis and comments. Some of you may have already seen this. Before I provide the link to Bill’s article, please note that he refers to six (and possibly) seven C-130 MAFFS that were on active status last week. If you read his article as well as the comments, you will see a discussion about the number of Convair 580s that were working fires in the U.S. last week. Bill had confirmation from the USFS that there were eight Convairs working fires last week. Why these Convairs are not all reflected in the EGBCC Airtanker Status listings, I can not say. Nor do I know for certain if there are six or eight Convairs (with two not being listed in the EGBCC Airtanker Status) working fires in the U.S. this week. Anyway, you may find Bill’s September 13 article here. I found this article to be very informative so I am sharing it with you.

In parting, a final point is that whether there are 17 or 19 Large Airtankers (civilian: P-2s and Convair 580s), the figure is significantly lower than the 41 or 42 Large Airtankers that were flying prior to 2002 ( see my Aug. 3 article on Airtanker numbers (part 1).

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reflections after Irene and Lee

I admit that my thoughts have been with New Jersey and Vermont in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, I am very mindful that both of these storms impacted many States in the south and east.

You see, as I was reflecting on what has been happening here in NJ with yet more flooding some of it at historic levels, I thought about the residents in other states that are dealing with the aftermath of Irene. So, while I will be focusing here on NJ, I am thinking about all those affected by Irene and Lee.

Power was back on here in NJ anywhere from 1 to 8 days after Irene passed. For the most part, major arteries that saw washouts after Irene or Lee are now open in NJ. There remains some bridge washouts and road closures, but you can get around, perhaps with delays due to detours. Schools are open. One might think that things are returning to normal. But for many residents as well as business owners and their employees, things are anything but normal. Flood waters may have gone down, but the clean-up is only beginning.

My heart goes out to the many residents and business owners in New Jersey affected by flooding, some of whom have seen two or more floods over the last two to six years. Many are weary of the flooding, of having to clean out their flood damaged homes, leaving their water logged belongings on the curb for pickup by their town. They have to start over again, yet again. Some will be wondering where the money will come from. For those who have flood insurance, what will the insurance pay for. Will FEMA be able to help, and if the FEMA help is in the form of a low-interest loan, can they afford the debt? What happens when costs are not covered by flood insurance, or FEMA grants or loans?

Words are inadequate

Then there is the emotional costs. How do you compensate for that. Some residents are hoping that FEMA will provide money to buy their homes so they can move somewhere else. But if there is money available for these buy outs, it often does not come close to covering what they may have put into their homes.

Words are inadequate

If anything, I am stunned by the magnitude of the floods both here in NJ and elsewhere in the east. I am also stunned to know that many were impacted by floods who live in what are (or were) low flood risk areas. What of them? Some may have chosen not to get flood insurance for whatever reason.

Words are inadequate.

Video and related article dated September 8, 2011. 80791. Lincoln Park is on the Rockaway River (a tributary of the Passaic River).

updated on July 18, 2013: video that I had embedded here is no longer available. :-(

Friday, September 16, 2011

A lot going on

I have recently returned from a few days in Vermont and am still playing catch up with news from the world of aerial wildland firefighting and wildland fires in general. I'll resume posting about aerial wildland firefightinf and wildland fires in a couple of days.

I'll continue with periodic updates about what is going post Irene in Vermont. And I haven't forgotten about my own State of NJ, also hard hit by flooding from Irene and Lee.

2011 Vermont flooding: update #2

Having just returned home yesterday after spending three days in northeastern VT where I spent much time listening to Vermont Public Radio's coverage of the aftermath of the Hurricane Irene. I was especially interested in the progress that they are making with repairing road washouts and bridge damage. As you can see in the video clip that I embedded above from Rachel Maddow's Sept 15 show on MSNBC, progress is being made. Reopening U.S. Rte. 4 from Rutland to Bridgewater (see image below) is huge.

There is still a lot more work that needs to be done. The Vermont Agency of Transportation has devoted their "" page to Hurricane Irene related resources.  Those of you who like to play around with interactive google maps, might like to check out this interactive map of current road closures and openings from Irene. I used the kml file that I downloaded from this interactive map to show you the above image. The road colored purple is only opened to authorized vehicles. The roads in yellow (including one stretch of U.S. Rte. 4) is open with limited access with delays. Limited access with delays is a lot better than no access or authorized (emergency) vehicles only.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A compilation of footage from the 2011 CA fire season shot in HD by Nick Mitchell.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Texas wildfires again (update #4)

A video uploaded to youtube on Sept, 7, 2011.

There are images of charred animal remains that some might find disturbing - approximate times (minutes and seconds) are 4m47s-4m48s, 4m54s-4m55s, and 5:35- 6m00s.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Maine National Guard helping to rebuild VT roads

Thank-you Maine National Guard!

Texas wildfires again (update # 3)

A short video showing a Blackhawk helo doing bucket work on the Bastrop Texas wildfires, uploaded on Sept. 7, 2011. You will want to check out the info on youtube from the videographer (click show more).

Thursday, September 08, 2011


I have a couple of projects that I have been involved with recently and another one that I'll be doing much of next week. So, I haven't been able to spend quite as much time with this blog as I would like to. Thanks to all of you wonderful people for your patience.

Yes, there continues to be ongoing flooding here in NJ, thanks to heavy rains that we got last night. We are ok. I have also been following the flooding in Vermont, where I have interests. I don't quite have it in me to post about the flooding here, at least at this point. Those of you who are not living through this in your eastern State, have probably seen, heard or read reports from various news outlets.

Texas wildfires again (update #2)

Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today continues to do a fine job on reporting on the wildfires currently burning in Texas. Bill posted an article earlier today that may be found here. He reports that Bastrop County Complex has burned 34,068 acres and is 30 percent contained. 1,386 residences have been destroyed. I understand from Bill's article that the remains of two "civilians" have been found.

Bill reported earlier on the TX wildfires on Sept. 7 and I wrote about the Texas wildfires on Sept. 6.

Tanker status resources on the web

I have recently come across what is currently a publicly available tanker status listing, updated daily. As I write this, the tanker status page may be accessed here. I'm not quite sure how long this information will be publicly available and I suspect that once all the tankers are off contract, the page will no longer be updated.

There is a lot of information here, some of which may be more information than you want.  But you should get an idea of where tankers are assigned that day. I thought that some of you might find this information interesting, so I decided to write this article.

This tanker status page does not list SEATs, the Very Large Air Tankers (e.g. the DC-10 tankers), nor does it list helos. The one that I am looking at does list the P-2's, Two MAFFS, three of the Convairs, and three Canadair CL-215s.

Data fields such as the current GACC (Geographic Area Coordination Center), current dispatch, provider unit,  and the incident number are coded, but I believe that the first two places in the alphanumeric coding are the two digit US state abbreviation. The current base (airport) may not be useful to you if you don't what state the base is in. But a search on the internet should help you figure out where the base is located.

I thought about trying to decipher one sample entry for you. However, while I have an idea of what most of the information refers to, I suspect that I will get some of the details wrong, so I won't try. At least not now because I am involved in a project that will take me several days to complete leaving me with limited time to update my blog. I'll see what I can do to follow-up on this in a future blog post.

Finally, speaking of the DC-10 tankers, some of you might be interested in knowing where the DC-10 tankers are located. I recently found out that the 10 Tanker Carrier has a twitter page that I was able to access just now without signing on to twitter. For example I understand from recent updates by 10tanker that at least one of the DC-10 tankers will be flying the wildfires currently burning in Texas, perhaps tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 9).

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Texas wildfires, again

Sadly, another round of devastating widfires has hit Texas over the last several days.. By now, many of you may have seen reports on the news., perhaps you have already seen the video from CNN that I have embedded here. At least two people have died, and over 400 homes have been destroyed. Evacuation orders are in place. There are many tankers and helos working the fire. Here are some links:

photo gallery from the sac bee including a P-2 (T-48), a seat, and some helicopters working the fire.

Bill Gabbert from WildfireToday reported on the wildfires yesterday, here.

Inciweb page on the 2011 Texas Wildfires

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Guard Ships Supplies To Isolated Communities - Video - WPTZ Plattsburgh

I've been on the hunt looking for videos of National Guard Helos bringing supplies to the towns in Vermont that were cut off from the outside as a result of Irene. As I write this, all of these town have some sort of access over what may be no more than goat paths through the mountains. And most are powered. But earlier in the week before these isolated communities had emergency vehicle access by land, the National Guard airlifted supplies. Here is a link to some footage, you will see Blackhawks and a Chinook.

Guard Ships Supplies To Isolated Communities - Video - WPTZ Plattsburgh

Friday, September 02, 2011

Hill Fire - San Bernardion NF CA

As I write this, I am watching live feed from KCAL in LA of the Hill Fire, the live stream that I am currently watching may be found here. Have been watching this feed with a 15 minute break for dinner for about one hour now.

As I understand it from the report on the KCAL page (see the link in the preceding paragraph), the Hill Fire has burned 800 acres and evacuations have been ordered. In the time that I have been watching I have seen the following aircraft working the fire: T-43 (P-2 from Neptune), one of the DC-10 tankers, 1 or more CAL FIRE S-2Ts (couldn't make out tail numbers), and one 'Crane.

I'd like to thank a friend who sent me a link to audio feed of the San Bernardino County System 1 - Fire Live Audio Feed from Radio Reference. My friend told me that there is a link in the wildland fire hotlist for the Hill Fire.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Get well Vermont

I've owned seasonal property in northeastern Vermont for 30 years, and my family for 70 years before that. I am very saddened knowing what these wonderful people in the Green Mountain State have endured with the recent floods. Yet, I know that the people of the Green Mountain State are pulling together and helping each other out with the help of many from away.

updated on July 18, 2013: video that I had embedded here is no longer available. :-(