Friday, September 30, 2016

Loma Fire (CA) Air Operations #2

I wrote about the Loma Fire on September 28th where I shared a short video from a local news outlet of air operations over the fire. Today I will share two more videos showing air operations over the Loma Fire. But first, an update. As I write this, the Loma Fire has burned 4,313 acres in Santa Clara County, California. The fire is at 34 percent containment. Eight residences and nine outbuildings have been destroyed, an additional 325 buildings are threatened. Evacuation orders remain in place.  CAL FIRE has an incident page for the Loma Fire, the latest incident page (updated periodically while the fire is active) may be found here.

Both of the videos that I am embedding below were uploaded by W Colby. Allow about 15 minutes to watch both videos.

Direct link to video on Youtube

Direct link to video on Youtube

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Loma Fire (Santa Clara County, CA) - air operations

I found a short but nice video of air tanker operations over the Loma Fire, which I'll get to in a minute. I read about the Loma Fire yesterday on Bill Gabbert's Blog, Wildfire Today in this article. Bill has shared some nice pictures of the Loma Fire and has a nice article which you may want to check out.

I found CAL FIRE's incident page for the Loma Fire, the latest update available as I write this was at 6:30 AM PDT on September 28. According to CAL FIRE's Loma Fire incident page has burned 2,250 acres in Santa Clara County, CA and is at 10 percent containment. One residence and six outbuildings have been destroyed, mandatory evacuations are in place. The cause of the fire is not known at this time and is under investigation.

The video that I am embedding below is from Sky7 HD, and I found it on the KRON4 News Facebook page (). The video is also available on the KRON4 News website on this page with videos from the Loma Fire, scroll down and you will see the video along with some other videos that you might want to check out. Back to the air operations video, you will see at least one DC-10 tanker making a drop, a DC-7 tanker, and a couple of S-2T tankers (including but not necessarily limited to T-85 and T74).

The SFGate has a nice photo gallery of images from the Loma Fire that may be found here

Friday, September 23, 2016

Wildland Firefighter Fatalities (2016) - RIP

The recent death of Ryan Osler (38) on September 21st when a water tender rolled over en route to the Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Airbase is a reminder that wildland firefighter, and any firefighting for that matter, is dangerous.

There are always a number of wildland firefighter deaths each year in the United States and around the world and 2016 year to date is no exception. Always Remember, a site that "provides a permanent location to collect, organize, maintain, preserve, and share current and historical incidents in which wildland firefighters lost their lives, to remember our fallen firefighters, their contributions, and the lessons learned from their lives or in their passing (obtained from Always Remember on September 23, 2016)." I went to Always Remember just now to see who has died in 2016 (as of September 23, 2016). Always Remember maintains a list of wildland firefighters (by incident) who have died in the United States, with the latest on top, that may be found on the Always Remember Incident Page.

Please join me in remembering each of these fallen wildland firefighters who died to keep us safe, prayers for their families, friends, colleagues, and all who love them. May you all Rest in Peace. Thank-you for your service.

  • Shawana Jones (22) died on February 26. 2016 on a small wildfire in the Santa Monica National Recreation Area.
  • Jacob O'Malley (27) and Will Hawkins (22) died on July 10, 2016 died when their BLM vehicle rolled while returning from wildfire patrol duty near Denlo Nevada.
  • Charles Waterbury (56) died on July 24, 2016 after suffering from a medical emergency while fighting a wildfire near Lyme New Hampshire.
  • Robert Reagan (35) died on July 26, 2016 when the Bull Dozer he was driving while working the Soberanes Fire (Monterey County, CA) rolled over.
  • Justin Beebe (26) died on August 13, 2016 died in tree felling accident while his Hotshot crew, the Lolo Interagency Hotshot Crew was working the Straberry Fire (Great Basin National Park in Nevada).
  • Ian Howard (36) died of unknown causes during the night of August 20-21, 2016. His engine crew was positioned to work a wildfire on the Mendocino National Forest (near the Paskenta Work Center).
  • Alan Swartz (25) and Jimmy Shelifoe (23) members of the Beartown (Michigan) Firefighter Crew died on August 27, 2016 when their crew transport vehicle was in a motor vehicle accident in Minnesota. The Beartown Firefighter Crew was on their way to the Box Canyon Fire in Utah.
  • Ryan Osler (38) of the Ventura County CA Fire Department died on September 21, 2016 when his water tender rolled over en route to the Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Airbase.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Helicopter flight over Pioneer Fire

One of the Facebook pages that I check out periodically during wildfire season is by US National Weather Service (NWS) IMET. IMET's are National Weather Service Meteorologists who have received special training to provide onsite meteorological services for wildland fires (see the about tab on the USNWS IMET facebook page for more information, I wrote about IMETs on August 10th and August 11th (2016). IMETs save lives!

The US National Weather Service IMET (Facebook) has some useful information including when and where IMETs are deployed during wildfire season. But there is also other good information posted on that page, which is how I found about the video that I am embedding below. 

I was interested to read September 2, 2016 post on the US National Weather Service IMET Facebook Page. An IMET from the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Jackson, Mississippi was assigned to the Pioneer Fire at the end of August. On August 29th, he had a chance to go on a helicopter flight over the Pioneer Fire when it was making run. It seems that the Pioneer Fire grew by 30,000 acres that day. According to the commentary by Dan Byrd that accompanies the video (direct link to Aug 29th Helicopter Flight over the Pioneer Fire: "The fire put up a 40k foot plume today and consumed 30 thousand acres just north of Boise ID."

I don't know the nature of the helicopter flight, probably reconnaissance. In any event, the video is over nine minutes long with some great footage of an active and growing fire. Impressive! According to an August 30th news release about the Pioneer Fire, the fire had burnt about 140,780 acres on August 30th, up from 111,604 acres on August 29th. As I write this, the Pioneer Fire (page updated periodically, what you see may be different) has burned 188,404 acres in Boise National Forest near Boise Idaho and is at 64 percent containment. 

I shared a video on September 12th showing the Umatilla Initial Attack Crew working the Pioneer Fire on or about August 4th.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Revisiting Soda Fire (2015) Post-Fire Recovery (Sept. 2016)

I am still very interested in the 2015 Soda Fire Post-Fire Recovery. Readers of this blog may recall that I wrote two series on emergency rehabilitation and recovery from the 2015 Soda Fire. The first series, in late 2015 focused on Burned Area Emergency Response. I wrote the second series in February 2016 focusing on the 2015 Soda Fire Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation (ESR) plan for burned area recovery (BAR). If you are interested in reading any of these earlier articles, please see my February 8th post where I have included links to all my earlier articles.

You may recall that burned area recovery that the ESR work will continue for one to five years depending on the specific treatments (see for example part two of my two part interview with the Idaho BLM. For some information on specific treatments planner see my February 12th and February 15th articles.

I do spend a certain amount of time reflecting on the 2015 Soda Fire Post-Fire Recovery and regret that distance and other factors preclude me from being able to follow this more closely. I did see that the BLM prepared a briefing package on Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation in May 2016, it is a short document with some photos and a list of treatments is provided on page 3. According to the May 2016 Briefing document, included in the treatments planned for 2016 (this may be a partial list) are:

  • repair of roads, recreation trails, culverts, ditches, water bars, and warning signs;
  • planting of seedlings;
  • repair of fencing;
  • and treatment of noxious weeds
On page 5 of the May 2016 ESR Briefing Package refers to plans for emergency fuel breaks:
On May 5, 2016, the BLM Owyhee Field Office signed an emergency decision authorizing the construction of up to 25 miles of fuel breaks in the highest-priority area of the wildland-urban interface. The fuel breaks will include approximately 200 acres of targeted grazing and mowing along with improvements on up to 25 miles of roads.
as well as an environmental assessment for fuel breaks (May 2016 ESR Briefing Package, page 5)
On May 13, 2016, BLM released an environmental assessment (EA) of a network of fuel breaks designed to protect the ESR investment for public comment. 
• The EA analyzes the completion of approximately 425 miles of fuel breaks, using a combination of road maintenance, mowing of sagebrush, application of herbicides, targeted grazing, and establishment of vegetative fuel breaks 
• These fuel breaks will allow for improved access by fire suppression resources and a higher probability for stopping fires before they become large, protecting lives, property, ESR treatments, and natural resources.
 The BLM released a press release about the planned fuel breaks here.
• A final EA and decision are anticipated in early June, 2016. 
I am never quite sure how long links will be active, but I found information about the May 2016 ESR Briefing Package on a webpage from the Idaho BLM on the Soda Fire Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation. Depending on when you are accessing that page, the information that you see may be different. At the time that I am writing this in September 2016, the information on the Idaho BLM's Soda Fire Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation page is similar to the information found in the May 2016 ESR Briefing Package.

Friday, September 16, 2016

A little Tanker History (1980)

As I continue to work on another project which I hope is nearing completion, I leave you with footage of Air Tankers working out of Hemet in November 1980, recently uploaded to Youtube. I loved watching footage of these now historic aircraft.

Direct link to footage uploaded to Youtube by Habujet

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Time for SEATs (again)

I love watching SEATs, and on this day when I am busy doing some research for future articles, I am posting a couple of videos of SEATs that I found on Youtube. Enjoy!

Direct link to video on Youtube

Direct link to video on Youtube

Monday, September 12, 2016

Umatilla IA Crew - Pioneer Fire

I just came upon this nice video of the Umatilla Initial Attack Crew working the Pioneer Fire in early August of this year. As I write this, the Pioneer Fire  was first reported on July 18, 2016, it has burned 185,895 acres in the Boise National Forest in Idaho, and is at 56 percent containment.

Note the video was uploaded to Youtube by Brock Shelton on August 4th. At the time the video was made the fire had burned 50,237 acres.

Direct link to video uploaded by Brock Shelton

Friday, September 09, 2016

A Type II Initial Attack Handcrew Works a Wildfire

I came across this great video from Wildland Firefighters Anonymous about an anonymous Type II Initial Attack Handcrew working a wildfire. The comment that goes along with this video says simply "It's all part of the gig. No recognition need, just proud of our work." What a wonderful video showing this Type II Initial Attack Crew at work somewhere. It doesn't matter, what matters is that they are proud of what they do, and we get a glimpse of this crew at work. I enjoyed the video. I was reminded, yet again, when I saw several shots of tankers and helos working the fire that tankers and helos fly fires to support the troops on the ground.

Stay safe everyone.

Direct link to video on youtube

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

About the CAL FIRE Pilots Association

I have been very remiss in nor writing about the CAL FIRE Pilots Association before now. I became aware of the CAL FIRE Pilots Association a few years ago now, either from Jerome Laval (editor of their newsletter) or from some of my other tanker pilot friends. Or perhaps from both sources.

As stated in the CAL FIRE Pilots Association (CFPA) Mission Page, the goal of the the CFPA (a California Mutual Benefit Nonprofit is to "... promote a safe and fair work place for those pilots working under the Calfire contract."

I have learned a lot from the CFPA webpage. For example, I just now saw a great power point on aerial fire fighting (link to download, requires Power Point or Keystone (part of the Apple iWork suite). If you can, I hope that you take some time to take a look at this presentation on aerial fire fighting. You'll learn about the anatomy of a wildfire along with some photos of S2-T tankers working a wildfire.

If you want to learn more about the airplanes on the CAL FIRE contract, the Grumman S2-T Tanker and the OV-10A Bronco, you are in luck. The CFPA has a page focusing on the S2-T and the OV-10A Bronco -- the CFPA Gallery (with links to photos and videos). Once you get to the CFPA Gallery you can get information about the Grumman S2-T and the OV-10A Bronco. Briefly, the OV-10A Bronco is an Aerial Supervision Module (ASM)/Lead Plane Platform (when the pilot is Lead Plane qualified), and the S2-T is an Air Tanker Platform.

If you want to learn more about the CAL FIRE tanker bases, there is a page for that with an interactive map -- CFPA Tanker Bases. Also on CFPA Tanker Bases is a link to information about temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) in California from the FAA.

The CFPA in the News page has some links to relevant articles.

Last but by no means least are the CFPA Newsletters, published three or four times a year from June through October. I love this newsletter and have downloaded all the issues that I can. Not only do I learn about wildfires in California and the S2-T and OV-10A pilots and where they are assigned, I have enjoyed reading about some of the pilots. For example, the June 2016 and the July 2016 issues has a two part article on a now retired CAL FIRE pilot, Deen Oehl who was based at Hemet Ryan. Also in the June 2016 and the July 2016 is an article by fire photographer Kit Robinson, with some history. I also enjoyed reading about another recently retired CAL FIRE pilot, Bob Forbes in the July 2016 issue. And then there are the awesome photos along with other great articles relevant to the aerial firefighting business. The CFPA newsletter does focus on California, but also includes articles focusing on safety, and national and international concerns. I find each issue of the CFPA newsletter, a must download and a must read.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Thank-you wildland firefighters for laboring on Labor Day

There are many folk who are working this Labor Day, a national holiday for many (but not all) in the United States. If I were to try to name an all inclusive list of those who are working this Labor Day, i would no doubt leave some out. So, I won't try.

I do want to pause and remember all of you who are working wildfires, and there are many large fires burning in the U.S. To all of you working wildfires today -- ground crews; air tanker, helicopters, lead plane and reconnaissance aircraft; all those supporting ground and air crews; dispatchers; NWS incident meteorologists; etc. -- I thank all of you. My wish for you is to stay safe so that you can finish your tour of duty and go home to your family and friends.

Please know that your work and sacrifices that you make is appreciated by me and by many others.

I offer this perhaps inadequately worded post as an expression of my thanks to all working wildfires in any capacity for all you are doing.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Thanks to Hurricane Hunters

On a day when some in the Mid-Atlantic are getting ready for whatever Hurricane Hermine throws our way later this weekend into early next week I do want to pause a moment and thank all the #Hurricane Hunters who have been flying this storm and others. I don't know about you, but airplanes and weather bring out the geek in me. First if you or your loved ones are living in areas that may be impacted by Hermine, you may want to check out the National Hurricane Center Website as well as you local National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office.

If you are want to know more about any current missions being flown by the Hurricane Hunters, you may find a list of today's and tomorrow's missions on the NHC Aircraft Recon Page, check under plan of the day at the top of the page. For example, here is today's (September 2nd's) potential Hurricane Hunter Missions (I believe that the Teal designation refers to Hurricane Hunters from the USAF 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron:

NOUS42 KNHC 021457
         VALID 03/1100Z TO 04/1100Z SEPTEMBER 2016
         TCPOD NUMBER.....16-099


       FLIGHT ONE - TEAL 71           FLIGHT TWO - TEAL 72
       A. 03/1730Z,2330Z              A. 04/0530Z
       B. AFXXX 1509A HERMINE         B. AFXXX 1609A HERMINE
       C. 03/1430Z                    C. 04/0215Z
       D. 36.0N 75.3W                 D. 37.1N 73.0W
       E. 03/1700Z TO 03/2330Z        E. 04/0500Z TO 04/0800Z
       F. SFC TO 10,000 FT            F. SFC TO 10,000 FT



       FLIGHT ONE - TEAL 76           FLIGHT TWO - TEAL 77
       A. 03/1800Z, 04/0000Z          A. 04/0600Z,1200Z
       B. AFXXX  0713E LESTER         B. AFXXX 0813E LESTER
       C. 03/1630Z                    C. 04/0515Z
       D. 21.7N 154.5W                D. 22.4N 157.3 
       E. 03/1730Z  TO 04/0000Z       E. 04/0530Z,1200Z
       F. SFC TO 10,000 FT            F. SFC TO 10,000 FT




Finally if you want information on Hurricane Hunter flights in progress, or past flights, go to Live Recon in the Atlantic. You can either use your browser by clicking Cesium (no plug in required) or you may download a plug-in for Google Earth. I have just recently started using Cesium and it is very easy to use. I downloaded an image for you from Hurricane Hunter Mission 14 into Hermine flown by USAF (C-130J) 304. If you are looking at this in your browser, you can zoom in and you can click on different observations (the wind flags, the dropsnodes (cylindrical objects) to get the data. Pretty cool stuff.

Hurricane Hunter Mission 14 into Hermine flown by USAF 304 (C-130J)
Stay safe Hurrican Hunters and thanks for your service!!