NWCG to establish Wildland Fire Institute

The National Wildland Fire Coordinating Group has awarded a contract to Corporate University Enterprises, Inc. to design a corporate university, called the Wildland Fire Institute (WFI), that would provide “hire to retire” career planning and training for the wildland fire community.

It is not etched in stone yet. The business and launch plans will be written by the contractor, but then the NWCG and the wildland fire agencies will have to make a decision about implementation… or not.

Here is an excerpt from the memo below:

The intent of the NWCG WFI concept is to unify existing training resources and collectively address gaps in learning and development associated with incident and non-incident related skills and leadership.

[…]

The Wildland Fire Institute would not be a new training group, nor is it intended to physically centralize all training functions. The intent is for an integrated, collaborative network of existing training groups throughout the wildland fire and aviation community for training development and implementation. The purpose is to provide training, education, succession planning, and talent management for the wildland fire and aviation community to address incident and non-incident management into the future.

This appears to be an excellent idea. Wildland fire is a profession in which the consequences of failure can be catastrophic, as we have all seen. It takes 10 to 20 years to become proficient, and even longer to rise to the top of the fire qualifications ladder. If this concept is approved, and IF there is a commitment, a long-term commitment, to fully implement and fully fund it, (those are big “IFs”), it could enhance the professionalism, competence, and safety of the wildland fire agencies.
NWCG#033-2010 Memorandum Wildland Fire Institute 2010-07-19

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PCAD, a re-invented air tanker system, is tested

PCAD test air tanker drop
PCAD containers are dropped from a C-130 in a test at Yuma Proving Grounds. Photo by Mark Schauer

As we said on May 14, Caylym Technologies inexplicably continues to develop what they call a “precision container aerial delivery system” (PCAD) for suppressing wildfires. The system attempts to re-invent air tankers by dropping 200-gallon plywood/plastic containers of retardant or water, each weighing about 2,000 pounds, from a normally-configured C-130.

Here is a video of one of the early tests of the system conducted on September 25, 2007:

Now they are conducting additional tests of the system at the Yuma Proving Grounds, mapping the ground distribution of the four-foot-square plywood skid boards, the cardboard boxes, and the 200-gallon plastic containers after a drop. We assume they will eventually set up a grid of measuring cups to map the coverage level of retardant, if they ever advance to that stage.

PCAD test air tanker drop
Geodetic surveyor Jerry Wells uses a GPS to map the ridiculous amount of debris dumped onto the ground after a test of the PCAD at Yuma Proving Grounds. Photo by Mark Schauer.

The Yuma Sun describes the delivery system:

Continue reading “PCAD, a re-invented air tanker system, is tested”

Video: interview with firefighter who escaped entrapped engine

King5 has a video interview with one of the three firefighters that escaped from a structural engine as it became entrapped by flames on the Cowiche Mill fire west of Yakima, Washington on July 18. Michael Rhine, a second-year volunteer firefighter, suffered some second-degree burns on his ear — the other two firefighters’ injuries were also minor.

NTSB releases report on Nevada SEAT crash

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a “probable cause” report on the August 20, 2009 crash of a single engine air tanker (SEAT) 125 miles northeast of Reno, NV in which pilot Dave Jamsa of Minuteman Aerial Applications was killed while working on the Hoyt fire. Because of damage to the aircraft, the investigators can’t determine with certainty why the SEAT seemed to stall at the end of what appeared to be an attempt at making a retardant drop. One theory is that the drop was attempted but the drop system was not armed, and no retardant was dispersed. The weight remaining in the aircraft, when the pilot expected it to be much lighter after the drop, made it impossible to gain enough altitude to avoid impacting the terrain.

The drop system is normally not armed in order to avoid inadvertent drops, and it should be armed shortly before the intended drop. It is possible that the pilot forgot to arm the system, a fairly common mistake, which prevented the retardant from being dispersed. But this is just a theory, and the exact cause may never be known.

NTSB Factual Report 6/2/2010

Probable Cause Report 7/1/2010

NTSB releases Preliminary Report on air tanker runway overrun

P2 crash in Colorado
Tanker 44 off the runway. Photo: Cliff Grassmick

The National Transportation Safety Board has released their Preliminary Report about the P2V-5 air tanker that ran off the end of the runway while landing at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Colorado on June 26. It contains no surprises and confirmes the early reports about a hydraulic system failure on Tanker 44. Here is the complete narrative from the report.

On June 26, 2010, about 1300 mountain daylight time, a Lockheed P2V-5 airplane, N1386C, was substantially damaged during a landing roll overrun at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (BJC), in Broomfield, Colorado. The pilot and co-pilot were not injured. The airplane was registered to Neptune Aviation Services Inc., of Missoula, Montana, and operated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forestry Service, under an exclusive public-use firefighting contract. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed for the fire suppression flight. The local flight originated from BJC at 1150.

According to the pilot, following a “normal” retardant drop, the main hydraulic system failed. The airplane was configured for landing via emergency hydraulic pressure and an emergency declared. The pilot continued, that the landing was routine; however, when he attempted to stop the airplane using the emergency system brakes there was no response. The airplane rolled through a fence, went down an embankment,and came to rest nose down on a city street. The pilot and co-pilot were able to exit unassisted.

Updated on Jul 20 2010 3:14PM.

Railroad-caused fires in Michigan and Washington – two different approaches

King 5 news in Seattle continues to investigate and expose the negligence of the railroad companies, especially Burlington Northern Santa Fe, in regards to starting hundreds of wildfires along their tracks in the state of Washington. They first reported on this in November, 2009.  Over a 10-year period, railroads, mostly Burlington Northern Santa Fe, were listed as the cause for 234 fires. One person was killed when he was overrun by one of the fires as he operated a combine. Several people have lost their homes. However the company has NEVER been cited for causing any of the fires.

This is negligence squared, in that the railroad was negligent for starting the fires, and the state, including Joe Shramek, the Resource Protection Manager for the Washington Department of Natural Resources, was negligent for not prosecuting the railroad for even one of the 234 fires.

The state of Michigan has a very different philosophy about holding railroads accountable for starting fires. There, as we reported in February, the Department of Natural Resources investigates fires and when appropriate turns over their evidence to the Attorney General for prosecution. Lake State Railway is facing criminal charges for allegedly starting a 2008 fire that torched some 1,300 acres of forest, several homes and other buildings in Grayling. And in a more recent example, when a train was suspected of starting several fires in Alpena, Michigan on April 5, 2010, Paul Kollmeyer, a Department of Natural Resources and Environment Wildfire Prevention Specialist conducted a large part of the investigation and submitted a report to the AG’s office within a week of the fires occurring.

Washington’s Department of Natural Resources needs to stop sitting on its hands. But thankfully the Burlington Northern Santa Fe is taking some measures to prevent future fires caused by their trains.

Wildfire Today commends King 5 for exposing the negligence of the railroads and the State government in Washington, and we also commend the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment for holding accountable the people and companies responsible for starting fires.