A new air tanker?

new air tanker

This photo appeared at FlightAware, having been uploaded there on May 15. Could this be the project that Minden is working on, converting a BAe 146-200 into an air tanker that we told you about on March 28? According to the flight tracker at FlightAware, this aircraft, N146FF, last landed on May 15, at Missoula, but there is a rumor that it was at another airport yesterday.


Wildfire Today has confirmed that Tanker 40 is Neptune Aviation’s BAe-146 conversion, which further explains why it was last reported landing at Missoula, the home of Neptune.

Minden’s BAe-146 conversion, Tanker 46, is currently at Fox Field in southern California.

So there are two or three BAe-146 conversion projects currently nearing completion:

  1. Minden’s,
  2. Neptune’s, and
  3. Tronos. (which may be the one that Neptune has)

But keep in mind, before any air tanker can contract with a federal agency in the United States they will have to get a Supplemental Type Certificate from the FAA, as well as certification from the Interagency Air Tanker Board.

Below is the photo that we ran on March 28 of the Tronos project.

BAe-146 air tanker
BAe-146-200 makes its first drop on October 28, 2009. Tronos photo.

UPDATE July 15, 2010

We just want to summarize the information we have. It appears there are two BAe-146 air tanker conversion projects underway:

  1. Neptune, at Missoula, MT: Tanker 40, N146FF (formerly N608AW), serial #E2049, registration issued May 12, 2010, airworthiness issued May 23, 2010; owner: Aircraft Holdings Network Inc trustee, Las Vegas, NV. This aircraft was apparently converted by Tronos.
  2. Minden, at Minden, NV; Tanker 46, N446MA, serial #E2111, registration and airworthiness issued May 26, 2010; owner: Minden Air Corp, Minden, NV

The winner of the photo caption contest

Winner of caption contest
Judy van Aswegen and her contest prize

As you may remember, one of the rules of the photo caption contest was that the winner must send us a photo of the prize, the Wildfire Today ceramic mug, at their place of work. We are pleased that the winner, Judy van Aswegen, complied with the rules and sent us the above photo.

Here is what Judy does at her place of work, in her own words:

I am a self-employed software developer (http://www.preceptorsoft.com/), mostly concerned with systems analysis, information architecture, and user interface design. This led to my involvement with Firebreak Equipment (http://www.firebreak.co.za/NA/), and my ongoing interest in wildfire management. I marketed Firebreak Equipment’s Blackline Burner in North America. The FWS at the Huron WMD, SD conducted trials of the equipment in October 2007. (I recently received news that the Blackline Burner performed well putting down blacklines in the Bowdoin NWR, MN in April this year.

Congratulations again to Judy, and thanks for the great caption. And thanks to the other 56 people that submitted entries to the contest.

Night flying helicopters discussed in Senate hearing

Did anyone see the hearing conducted by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior this morning? The agenda was supposed to be “Examination of the firefighting policy with U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Interior”. The following report by 89.3 KPPC Southern California Public Radio concentrates on the use of night flying helicopters for fire suppression, as did other reports.

The U.S. Forest Service won’t deploy night-flying aircraft to fight fires before the end of Southern California’s traditional fire season.

The Forest Service has maintained a ban on fighting fires by air after dark since a helicopter crash back in 1977. Critics say that if the agency had allowed water-tanker planes in the air after dark, that equipment might have stopped last summer’s deadly Station Fire much sooner.

At a U.S. Senate hearing, Forest Service officials said they’re reconsidering the ban on night time aerial firefighting. The problem is that the Service doesn’t have the technology to do it. Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank says they “no longer have the night time flying goggles or the equipment in the helicopter to be able to use them.”

Schiff was invited by his California colleague Senator Dianne Feinstein to join senators who questioned the Forest Service’s night time ban. Schiff says the Service is considering two options.

“One is to acquire the capability in house. Another is to work with some of their cooperators — which is what they call L.A. County, L.A. City, that already have the capacity. Whether they should basically contract with them.”

The problem is that local governments have their own equipment challenges. Last summer, a Los Angeles County helicopter was in the air, fighting the Station Fire after dark until a medical emergency diverted the chopper from the fire scene.

If the Forest Service lifts its ban, the earliest it could have aircraft ready to fly at night would be November, well into the Southland’s wildfire season.


Here is an excerpt from the LA Times’ coverage of the hearing:

The head of the U.S. Forest Service told a Senate panel Wednesday that water-dropping helicopters would have been deployed during the critical first night of last summer’s disastrous Station blaze if they had been available and that the agency is considering ending its decades-long ban on using federal firefighting aircraft after dark.

Under pointed questioning by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell also defended the agency’s handling of the fire the next morning, when a heavy air assault did not begin until several hours after daylight. He said aircraft alone would not have stopped the flames from raging out of control.

But Schiff expressed doubt that an earlier air attack on Day 2 would have been ineffective because of steep terrain, as the Forest Service determined in November after an internal review.

“The conclusion that it would not have helped anyway is a little too facile,” he said.

Feinstein, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that held Wednesday’s hearing, said equipping the Forest Service with night-flying aircraft is a “real priority,” especially in California. She said global warming and enduring droughts have heightened the danger of huge wildfires that threaten neighborhoods.

“Fires are not going to get better, they’re going to get worse,” she said.

Australian Royal Commission told to abandon “stay or go”

Here is an excerpt from the AAP:

The policy that people in well-prepared homes can save their property and their lives in the face of a raging bushfire is a myth and should be abandoned, the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission has heard.

The stay or go policy failed the community on Black Saturday because many people who prepared to stay and defend their homes were killed, lawyers assisting the commission said.

But the state government’s solicitor argued it was still safer for people to shelter in houses during a bushfire than be caught in the open when trying to flee at the last minute.

The commission has been told that 113 of 173 people killed in the February 7, 2009 bushfires died sheltering in homes.

Senior Counsel assisting the commission, Jack Rush, QC, said the government’s policy didn’t work because many people don’t make preparations to stay and defend, and fewer left early.

He said the assertion in the stay or go policy that “people protect houses, houses protect people” was a myth and the policy should be abandoned.

“We call for a replacement of the policy with a new policy based around evacuation as the primary protective action for a community that is threatened by fire.

“If evacuation is not possible, shelter options should be available to all communities that are threatened by fire.”

Thanks Dick

Report examines effectiveness of outdoor sprinkler systems during wildfires

wildfire sprinkler effectiveness

The University of Minnesota has prepared a report that examines the effectiveness of outdoor sprinkler systems to protect homes during wildfires. Following the 1999 wind event, or “the blowdown”, that instantly created thousands of acres of dead and down vegetation, FEMA provided grants that paid for the installation of sprinkler systems at private residences. In fact in one area, the Gunflint Trail community, 130 systems were paid for by FEMA, and there were an estimated 300 total in the area.

The report can be found here; a large .pdf file will download when you click on the link.

Here is an excerpt from the report.

The Ham Lake wildfire experience with the sprinkler systems as one component of wildfire preparedness demonstrated that the systems, when properly installed and maintained, can be extremely effective in protecting not only the built structure but also the trees and vegetation within the sprinkler area. Of the threatened structures on the Gunflint Trail that burned in the Seagull Lake and Saganaga Lake areas, only one had a working sprinkler. Of the threatened structures that survived, 72% had working sprinklers. All but one structure with a working sprinkler system survived the fire.

The report also has a handy guide that provides information about the installation and maintenance of sprinkler systems. Here is an illustration from the brochure.

sprinkler diagram

New Mexico prescribed fire escapes, burns into Colorado

A prescribed fire ignited on May 21, 50 miles west of Raton, New Mexico, planned to be 600 acres, escaped on May 23 when it was too windy to fly air tankers and has now burned 3,800 acres. It has crossed the state line and scorched about 40 acres in Colorado. The name of the fire is H12. The prescribed fire was on the Vermejo Park Ranch a few miles south of the Colorado border.

Today they are transitioning from Kyle Sahd’s Type 3 incident management team to Pruett Small’s Type 2 team. In New Mexico the fire is in the jurisdiction of the Cimarron District, New Mexico State Forestry.