Fort Osage National Historic Landmark damaged by wildfire

The Fort will be closed indefinitely while repairs are made.

Above: Some of the structures at Fort Osage National Historic Landmark were damaged by a wildfire. (Credit for all photos: Fort Osage NHL)

(Originally published at 2:55 p.m. MT February 23, 2018)

Several of the structures at Fort Osage National Historic Landmark near Sibley, Missouri were damaged by a wildfire February 18. The fire started along the bank of the Missouri River and ran up the steep slope causing damage to a number of historic buildings (map). Strong winds and dry conditions  helped it spread to the replica of the fort that stood there in 1812.

Photos show the wooden shake shingles burning on at least two buildings. Jackson County spokesperson Marshanna Hester said county parks staff found that none of the structures will have to be demolished and can be repaired, but the officers’ quarters suffered significant interior damage.

wildfire Fort Osage National Historic Landmark

From Wikipedia:

During their famous ascent up the Missouri River to find the Northwest Passage, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark noted the spot in June 1804, as they camped for the night just across the river:

“high commanding position, more than 70 feet above high-water mark, and overlooking the river, which is here but of little depth…”

William Clark led a team in September 1808 back to the site to begin construction of Fort Osage. In November 1808 Pierre Chouteau negotiated the Treaty of Fort Clark with certain members of the Osage Nation, for the fort to be built for the protection of the Osage.

Archaeologists rediscovered the foundations of Fort Osage in the 1940s. The station was rebuilt to portray Fort Osage as it was in 1812 by using the preserved surveys created by William Clark and others, making restoration to exact specifications possible. The rebuilt post is known as Fort Osage National Historic Landmark and is owned and operated by the Jackson County Parks and Recreation.

wildfire Fort Osage National Historic Landmark

wildfire Fort Osage National Historic Landmark

satellite photo Fort Osage National Historic Landmark
Satellite photo of Fort Osage National Historic Landmark. Google Earth.
satellite photo Fort Osage National Historic Landmark
Satellite photo in 3-D, looking south. Google Earth.

Cuts in numbers of air tankers could result in the use of more expensive CWN aircraft

The exclusive use large air tankers are being cut from 20 in 2017 to 13 in 2018.

Above:  Tanker 101, an MD87, at Rapid City December 12, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(Originally published at at 3:05 p.m. MT February 21, 2018)

With the federal government’s drastic cut in the number of large air tankers on Exclusive Use (EU) contracts this year we did some calculations to look at the increased cost of this strategy. If the Forest Service desires more than the 13 that are on EU contracts, down from 20 in 2017, they can activate those on Call When Needed (CWN) contracts — that is, IF they are available. But this comes at a much higher price tag.

There are two costs for air tankers — daily plus hourly. If the aircraft just sits at an air tanker base available with a flight crew it only earns the daily availability rate. When it flies, an hourly rate is added. Both of these rates are higher for most air tankers.

We averaged the daily and hourly EU and CWN rates for three models of air tankers provided by three different companies, BAe-146 by Neptune, RJ85 by Aero Flite, and C-130 (382G) by Coulson. The numbers below are the combined averages of the three aircraft:

EU Daily: $30,150
EU Hourly: $7,601
CWN Daily: $46,341 (+54%)
CWN Hourly: $8,970 (+18%)

These costs only account for the additional costs of contracting for the air tankers, and do not include any increased costs of new, small wildfires escaping initial attack due to a lack of available air tankers or Type 1 helicopters. It also does not include property damage or, heaven forbid, lives lost. In 2017 the Type 1 helicopters on EU contracts were cut from 34 to 28, and that continues in 2018.

State and local wildfire organizations that in the past have counted on the federal government’s air tankers to assist them when they desperately need air support, had better look for alternatives. However, this slow motion atrophy of the air tanker fleet has been going on for the last 15 years.

air tankers contract exclusive use 2000-2018

gabbert prescription keep wildfires small

You may want to express your opinion to your Senators or Representatives.

Fire Management Officer talks about prescribed fire

In this video, the Fire Management Officer for the National Park Service’s Northern Great Plains Area, Eric Allen, talks about the benefits of prescribed fire. The seven NPS parks and monuments within that group are in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

For next fiscal year President proposes budget stability for firefighters, cuts for fire aviation

The number of firefighters would remain at 10,000, with cuts to air tankers and helicopters

CL-215 and CL-415
A CL-215 and CL-415 scoop water from Snowbank Lake in 2011 while working on the Pagami Creek fire in Minnesota in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. Photo by Kristi Marshall for the Superior National Forest

The budget recommended by President Trump for the U.S. Forest Service for Fiscal Year 2019 beginning in October includes stable numbers for wildland firefighters and cuts in fire aviation.

The FY19 firefighter numbers would be the same as in the two previous years, FY17 and FY18:

  • 900 Engines
  • 210 Dozers, Tractor Plows, and Water Tenders
  • 67 Hot Shot Crews (1,340 firefighters)
  • 7,940 other Firefighters
  • 320 Smoke Jumpers
  • 400 Fire Prevention Technicians

The firefighters above total 10,000, the same as in the last several years.

The only FY19 cuts recommended by the President to firefighting resources are in aviation:

  • 28 Type 1 large Helicopters, down from 34 in FY17, and the same as in FY18.
  • “Up to 18” Large Air Tankers, down from 20 in FY17 and up from 13 in FY18.
  • No HC-130H Coast Guard/USFS converted air tankers, down from one. The President intends to abandon this program.
  • No Water Scooping Air Tankers. There were two in FY17 and none in FY18.

These cuts are in spite of the fact that the number of acres burned annually in the United States continues to increase.

total acres burned wildfires United States 1990-2017

fire budget FY19 resources summary
Click to enlarge.

This recommended budget for the Forest Service is only a suggestion by the President. Congress is not obligated to respect his wishes and could do anything from passing a series of continuing resolutions locking in  budget numbers from the previous year, to passing something completely different. Or, doing nothing and shutting down the government again.

The table above shows numbers of resources. Below are dollars.

fire budget FY19 dollars
Click to enlarge.

More information about the reduction in firefighting aircraft.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bean.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Forest Service cuts air tankers by one-third

The agency also intends to abandon the project to convert Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft into air tankers

Fire Aviation broke major stories today. Below are excerpts:

The number of air tankers is cut for this fiscal year

The U.S. Forest Service is cutting the number of large air tankers on exclusive use (EU) contracts this year from 20 to 13.

air tankers number each year wildfire

U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Babete Anderson said budget issues are affecting the availability of ground and air-based firefighting resources:

The Forest Service is working to responsibly allocate ever tighter financial resources in the most responsible manner. Over the past few decades, wildfire suppression costs have increased as fire seasons have grown longer, and the frequency, size and severity of wildfires has increased. This means less funds available for our crucial restorative work on your National Forest System lands to prevent large fires.

Fewer Type 1 helicopters this fiscal year

Type 1 helicopters on exclusive use contracts have already been cut from 34 to 28. These are the largest firefighting helicopters, holding 700 to 2,800 gallons.

Forest Service to abandon the HC-130H conversion program

The U.S. Forest Service intends to abandon the program that it has been working on since 2013 to convert seven HC-130H Coast Guard aircraft into air tankers for fighting wildfires.

This is the last year the agency will support the HC-130H program. After four years none of the seven aircraft have completed the entire maintenance and conversion process.

HC-130H 1709 Jeanie Menze
One of the Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft, #1709, being transferred to the USFS; shown with Jeanine Menze several years ago–1st USCG African American female aviator. She earned her wings June 24, 2005.

Structure burns near Hominy, Oklahoma, starts vegetation fire

Kemohah Fire Oklahoma
Kemohah Fire. Photo by Jerry Messinger.

Jerry Messinger sent us this photo he took of the Kemohah Fire that started in a structure near Hominy, OK. Firefighters knocked it down after it burned 166 acres. Other structures, he said, were saved. Firefighters were challenged by strong winds and 80-degree temperatures.

Thanks Jerry!