Coulson’s new 737 rolls out of the paint shop

Above: Coulson’s first 737 being converted to an air tanker. Photo provided by Coulson Aviation.

Coulson Aviation has purchased six 737-300’s from Southwest Airlines and plans to convert them into air tankers. The first one being worked on just rolled out of the paint shop in Spokane. Britt Coulson said he expects it to be complete by the end of this year, then they will start on a second one. This will be the first 737 to be used as an air tanker. More information and photos are at FireAviation.com.

Water train assists firefighters on Spromberg Fire in Washington

Above: A BNSF water train assists firefighters on the Spromberg Fire north of Leavenworth, Washington. Screen grab from New Life Channel video.

Firefighters struggled to find enough water to suppress a fire that began Tuesday in a large log deck three miles north of Leavenworth, Washington. A local resident told us that water sources were scarce, the nearest hydrants were miles away, and he counted 13 water tenders at the scene.

The BNSF water train eventually arrived carrying two large railroad cars with many thousands of gallons of water.

The passage of a dry cold front brought winds and long range spotting that spread the fire away from the log deck and across about 40 acres of forest. A Type 3 Incident Management Team assumed command on Wednesday.

Spromberg Fire map
Map showing the location of the Spromberg Fire three miles north of Leavenworth, Washington.
Spromberg Fire water train
A BNSF water train assists firefighters on the Spromberg Fire north of Leavenworth, Washington. Screen grab from Chelan County Fire District video.

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

Government of Victoria proposes shakeup of fire services

The Country Fire Authority would become totally volunteer.

Daniel Andrews, the Premier of the Australian state of Victoria, is proposing a major overhaul of the fire services organizations. If legislation to enact the changes is passed, the Country Fire Authority (CFA) will become a volunteer-only agency when its paid employees merge with what has been the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) to morph into the newly-created Fire Rescue Victoria.

The Premier said, “These challenges have been made clear through a number of reviews in recent years, including the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.”

The MFB provides firefighting, rescue, medical, and hazardous material incident response services to the metropolitan area of Melbourne. The CFA, which provides firefighting and emergency services to rural areas of Victoria, has been mostly volunteer, with about 35,000 volunteers and over 1,000 paid professionals.

The Premier intends to sweeten the deal by promising more than $100 million
to support volunteer brigades with additional
training, equipment and facilities.

In addition (and this is big) the government intends to recognize presumptive cancers that are diagnosed among volunteers.

Below is an excerpt from a summary of the proposed fire services reorganization:

This recognises the challenges that firefighters have faced in accessing compensation for cancer arising from their service. The scheme will deliver equal access to compensation for career and volunteer firefighters.

It will apply to firefighters who have developed cancer because of their service and have been diagnosed since 1 June 2016. Rules that require volunteer firefighters to have attended a specific number of fires are problematic, so the scheme will instead mirror the approach taken in Queensland, which has no specific incident requirements.

Skeptics think one of the reasons for the major revamping of the agencies is the hope that it “will end a controversial dispute with the United Firefighters Union, which has fought bitterly with the government, the CFA, the MFB and volunteers over new pay deals”, according to an article at 9news.com.au.

2016 Southwestern U.S. wildfire report now available

Above: Engine 337 of the Tonto National Forest monitors the Juniper Fire, which started by a lighting strike on May 20, 2016 approximately 10 miles south of Young, Arizona. Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service, Tonto National Forest.

Wildfires burned nearly 600,000 acres last year in a three-state region of the Southwest U.S., more than double the number of acres burned in each of the previous two years, according to a new report published this week detailing the 2016 fire season.

The report is the fourth in a series of annual overviews made available from the Southwest Fire Science Consortium and the Ecological Restoration Institute intended to serve as a summary for past years and allow for a comparison with previous fires.

Specifically, the report describes effects from the 12 largest fires — each larger than 8,000 acres — in Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas.

Twelve fires are examined in detail. Four occurred in New Mexico: the North, Dog Head, McKenna and Clavel fires; seven in Arizona: Cedar, Jack, Juniper, Brown, Fuller, Rim and Mule Ridge; and one in Texas: the Coyote Fire.

These 12 largest fires represent nearly half of the acres burned by wildfire in 2016.

Granite Mountain Hotshots’ park has received thousands of visitors

Above: The parking lot at the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park trailhead southwest of Yarnell, Arizona was about half full at 3 p.m. on May 19, 2017.

The new Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park that opened November 30, 2016 is receiving so much use that often visitors are turned away when the small parking lot is full. Arizona State Parks reports that approximately 10,500 people have visited the site, more than the small parking lot can handle at times.

The park honors the 19 wildland firefighters that were killed on June 30, 2013 when they were overrun by the suddenly very active Yarnell Hill Fire near Yarnell, Arizona, 90 miles northwest of Phoenix.

Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park
Interpretive panels and stairway leading to the trail at the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park.

The park consists of a trailhead on U.S. Highway 89 approximately two miles west of Yarnell and a 3.6-mile trail leading to the fatality site. Along the trail are 19 stone plaques honoring each of the fallen Hotshots and six interpretive signs that tell their story.

The trail is fairly steep with quite a bit of elevation change, up and down, and can take four to six hours round-trip for the casual hiker.

The trailhead is located on an east-west section of the highway where the road contours across a very steep mountain. The highway is divided at that point with the eastbound lane several hundred feet below the westbound lane.

If you are driving east toward Yarnell you will not pass directly by the trailhead — you will see it only if you are heading west. However the state built a new road connecting the two opposing lanes about a quarter of a mile to the east. Signs direct eastbound travelers to turn left to get on the connecting road. Upon reaching the westbound lane, you turn left again and drive down to the parking lot and trailhead.

When I was there on May 19 about half of the 17 parking places were taken. According to an article in the Daily Courier the parking lot often being full has motivated park managers and locals to find a way to keep folks from being turned away. One idea being tossed around is to offer a shuttle.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

The group’s idea is to create a shuttle system that would take visitors from an overflow lot in Yarnell to the state park south of town. The group is looking into grant opportunities to help fund the shuttle, Lechner said.
Along with relieving the traffic frustrations for visitors, Lechner said the shuttle also could help the Yarnell businesses by bringing more the visitors into town.

“The best way to honor the sacrifice made by the Hotshots is to make Yarnell the most wonderful, thriving community as possible,” she said.

Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park
The fatality site at Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park. Photo by Arizona State Parks.

Colorado county approves first-of-its-kind deal with Global SuperTanker Services

Above: 747 Supertanker making a test drop with water at Colorado Springs May 4, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

A Colorado county on Tuesday approved a deal that sets the stage for a response from the largest firefighting aircraft in the world if and when major wildfires flare up near Denver, marking the culmination of a first-of-its-kind contract.

Commissioners in Douglas County on Tuesday approved the one-year, $200,000 deal with Global SuperTanker Services LLC that gives the county access to the mammoth Boeing 747-400 aircraft that can drop roughly 20,000 gallons of water or retardant — nearly double the capacity of its closest rival, the DC-10.

The deal is unique in that it gives the 800-square-mile county situated between Denver and Colorado Springs exclusive access to the SuperTanker.

“Douglas County is establishing a model for wildland fire-prone municipalities to follow,” Bob Soleberg, senior vice president and program manager for Global SuperTanker, said in a statement Tuesday night to Wildfire Today and Fire Aviation. “Their planning is comprehensive and designed to protect lives, property and the natural resources.”

Additional details about the new deal and information about Douglas County’s partnerships with other aircraft entities in the region is available on FireAviation.com.