Monday, March 30, 2020

Reflections on wildland firefighting and other emergency responders during a national emergency

As I write this post today, with the exception of essential trips, I have been sheltering-in-place for the last three to four weeks. I started this to be sure I was healthy for a cataract surgery earlier this month. Then Covid-19 cases ramped up in the United States, including my part of the country, so I took sheltering in place more seriously.

I did think about trying to write something about how the Covid-19 pandemic might affect wildland firefighting. I finally decided that such an article would be time consuming to research to try to get the best information for you. But more important, writing such an article is beyond my knowledge and capabilities. I suspect that all or most of you have seen various federal and local websites devoted to Covid-19 along with local journalism. Those of you who are wildland firefighters may, undoubtedly, know more than I about where to find information on how you handle Covid-19 and other infectious diseases on the fireline. So, If you are here looking for such information, I leave you to your own devices to find the information you are looking for. 

So, why am I mentioning Covid-19 at all? I mention this virus to provide a context for this post that I am writing in the middle of this pandemic.

I write this post for wildland firefighters who are considered essential workers along with structure firefighters, law enforcement personnel, EMT’s and ambulance drivers, medical personnel, National Guard troops, and other first responders.

I want all of you who are first responders, including but not limited to wildland firefighters to know that I am paying attention. I can only imagine the additional risks that wildland firefighters might be taking as you fight wildfires during a pandemic in order to keep us safe. I suspect that your training covers measures you can use to safe as you fight wildfires, whether it be on the ground, in the air, or the various support staff.

Wildfire season occurs at different times in different parts of the United States. The same may be true in your country. However, in some parts of the United States, the wildfire season never really ends.

I thank you, who are wildland firefighters and other first responders, for all you are doing, at added risk to yourself and your families, to keep us safe.

I thank the first responders in my town and elsewhere for your service, in my case some of you are volunteers for what you are doing to keep us safe.

To all wildland firefighters, on the ground and in the air, I think of you daily and will continue to keep you in thoughts and meditations as this pandemic continues.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday Fun: Ag Aviation

I want to end this week on a light note. Many of you know that I have a great deal of respect for all who are involved in Ag Aviation. I have seen these special Ag Planes up close and personal, including watching spraying operation in the New Jersey Barrens spraying our New Jersey Cranberries (see my March 13th post featuring Downstown Aero Crop Services. What a treat that was. Here are some fun video of Ag Planes in action. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Reflections on CL-215.415 amphibious air tankers

I first became acquainted with the CL-215/415 amphibious  air tankers in the spring of 2009 (e.g, see my April 2009 article) shortly after I began writing about aerial wildland firefighting. The CL-215 was built by Canadair, first flew in 1967, This amphibious airtanker scoops water out of a waterbody. The CL-215T was a turboprop version of the CL-215 resulting in an increase in power. In 1986 Canadair soled the manufacturing rights to Bombardier. Based on the success of the CL-215T, Bombardier introduced the CL-415, with two turboprop engines. The CL-415 is often referred to as the “super scooper.” Many of the videos that you might see of these amphibious air tankers around the internet are likely to be CL-415s. I love watch these videos of the CL-215/415 aircraft in action. I have seen videos of these aircraft scooping and working fires, often in pairs, inU.S., Canada, and in Europe. Scoop and drop, scoop and drop.

In November 2016 Bombradier sold the manufacturing rights to Viking Air, see Bill Gabbert’s November 2016 Fire Aviation article for more information and this 2016 press release from Viking Air. Viking’s page on the 415 may be found here. For a discussion of the CL-215T vs the CL-415 including information about the CL-415EAF go here. Bill Gabbert wrote about Viking's CL-415EAF  upgrade in this March 2020 article.

Here is a nice article from yubanet on the visit of one of Aero-Flite’s CL-415s to Grass Valley Airport in June of 2019. I believe that this aircraft was on a call-when-needed contract with the USFS.

Among the operators of the CL-415 that I know of in the United States and Canada are Air Spray, Aero-Flite , and Babcock. In 2016 the United States Forest Service awarded a five year exclusive use contract to Aero-Flite for two of their CL-415s for five years, that contract was cancelled in after the 2017 wildfire season, see Bill Gabbert’s November 29, 2017 Fire Aviation article for more information . I believe, but am not sure, that a couple of Aero-Flite’s 415’s have been under a call-when-needed contract with the USFS in 2018 and 2019.

The Province of Quebec has a fleet of CL-415s, they have leased two of this amphibious aircraft to Los Angeles County each fall for over 25 years, go this September 2019 press release from the County of Los Angeles for more information.

Here are a couple of short videos of CL-415's working fires in Europe:

Direct link to video on Youtube

Direct link to video on Youtube

Monday, March 23, 2020

Helitack: Oregon Department of Forestry (2015)

Even though I have to wait for my second cataract surgery until May, I am  getting used to working at the computer. This means that I am starting get back to doing the background work I need to do write more of what I am calling reflection articles on air tankers and helicopters. I hope to post one this Wednesday. Along those lines, I want to share a video showing helitack where helicopters deliver wildland firefighters to remote areas to fight wildfires. Here is a 7 minute video of an ODF helitack team fighting wildfires in 2015. This is probably a rerun, if so it so it is worth seeing again.

Direct link to video on Youtube

Friday, March 20, 2020

Friday Fun: Fun airplane videos

I don't know about you, but in light of the Novel Corona Virus pandemic and how that this is impacting the lives of some of us, myself included, I feel like doing something fun and aviation related in this post.

So I am posting two of my favorite fun aviation videos.

The first one, slightly more serious, shows two beautiful restored WW II era aircraft, a B-17 and a B-25 flying over Arizona. If you are accessing this post on a computer, for full effect click on the link to go to Vimeo to watch in landscape mode.

H5 - WWII Bombers over Arizona Landscape from H5 Productions on Vimeo.

I find this second video to be very funny. I hope that do as well.

Direct link to video on Youtube

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Prescribed Burn Season in New Jersey ended

I had been aware of the prescribed burning (RxB) season in New Jersey, I do not quite recall when the season officially starts. This year it may have started a little earlier because of the warmer winter. The first post I made about the RxB season in New Jersey was on February 3rd, and the New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS) issued a press release about RxB on February 25th saying that the RxB season was officially underway. I usually make more posts about the RxB season here in New Jersey. but distractions due to my recent cataract surgery, I made fewer posts then normal. But, I do want to assure all that I was aware and paying attention.

A friend of mine gave me a heads up the other day that the RxB season in New Jersey officially ended on March 15th. I think that this is the normal date when the season ends. But sometimes the RxB season is extended. Not so this year because of recent dry conditions. Kudos to the NJFFS for a job well done.

The NJFFS received national accolades for their Prescribed Burn program in 2019, the 84th year that they have done Prescribed Burns, here is a copy of the 2019 press release announcing these national accolades. This year makes 85 years.

Monday, March 16, 2020

On a personal note and 2019 wildfire season: Middlefork Ranger District (OR) Crew 501 crew video

On a personal note, yours truly the author of this blog had cataract surgery on one eye a week ago, and the second cataract surgery is scheduled for next week. The surgery is being done in outpatient surgery center devoted only to eyes, so hopefully that will bode will during restrictions from Covid-19. Even with only one eye done, corrected for distance and mid-range, my vision is better. The eye surgeon cleared me to drive, which is great. Yes, I am staying close to home and practicing social distancing. And with my eye drops, I don't need to tell you how many times a day I am washing my hands.

I had planned last week's articles prior to my cataract surgery but had not prepared ahead for this week.

Working on the computer is a bit of a challenge until I get my second cataract surgery. I am getting used to where I have to see to see the computer. But it is a bit of a strain, so I try not to overdue.

I had something else planned for today's blog article, but I was feeling somewhat tired and decided to chill out this afternoon. So, this post is coming late in the day. Better late then never.

With that being sad, I leave you with this 2019 crew video from Crew 501 from the MIddlefork Ranger District in the Williamette National Forest in Oregon.

Direct link to video on Youtube

Friday, March 13, 2020

Reflections on smaller SEATs Part 3 (300 to 799 gallon tanks) Downstown

I wrote on March 4th about Downstown and I want to continue with some more reflections about the wonderful folk at Downstown. My friends at Downstown have always answered my questions about wildland firefighting or ag aviation. What I do on my blog as I try to focus on wildland firefighting in New Jersey is easier because of Downstown. I have visited their airport and base of operations three times.  In May of 2012, they flew me down to their base in Vineland New Jersey for the afternoon. I had a great time and got to see their base and their planes up close and personal.

Here are some highlights from my visit, there may be some minor changes such as the designation of the SEATs and perhaps some newer equipment. But you will get an idea about what is involved in using a SEAT in southern New Jersey for wildland firefighting:

In addition to wildland firefighting, Downstown is an aerial agricultural operator. They provide a number of services including but not limited to crop fertilization, insect control, and winter cover crop seeding. 

In the fall of 2012, I drove down to the Pine Barrens while they were spraying cranberries. I saw them load the aircraft and spray the fields. It was wonderful. The also introduced me to some cranberry growers to see their operations. Nice to see where those very special New Jersey Cranberries come from and how they arrive at our tables for the Fall holidays. 

I will start with a few shots I took on Downstown’s airstrip in the Pine Barrens showing the fertilizer and and loading into the Air Tractor 602.

I will close by sharing to videos (combination of stills and videos) that I took during this visit.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

El Grupo 43 from 2012

This is one of my favarite videos from El Grupo 43 (2012) scenes of their water scoopers, aka Bombardiers CL-415 working wildfires in Europe.

Direct link to video on Vimeo

Monday, March 09, 2020

Air Tractor 602: spraying wheat in South Africa

Air Tractor 602 can fight wildfires, but they also do ag aviation. Here is a nice video, almost 12 minutes of an AT-602 spraying wheat in South Africa. You will watch and listen to her while she and her pilot are working.


Direct link to video