Official cause of Guiberson fire near Moorpark released

On September 22, 2009 Wildfire Today reported that the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department said the Guiberson fire near Moorpark, California started from “manure spontaneous combustion from a local ranch.” Now the Ventura County Fire Department has more or less confirmed that initial assessment, saying the fire, which burned 17,500 acres was caused by the spontaneous combustion of a mulch pile.

A map of the fire is HERE. And to remind you, this was the fire on which a lead plane and air tanker “rescued” some horses that were trapped on an extremely steep slope.

1910 fires

The US Forest Service has put together a web site that includes a great deal of information about the 1910 fires, sometimes known as the “Big Burn”, the huge fires that burned large areas of Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Canada. Here is a recently made map that shows some of the fires of 1910, at least the ones in Idaho and Montana. A more detailed version of the map is HERE, a 2 Mb pdf file.

1910 fires, part of the Big Burn

The USFS site also includes a schedule of events that commemorate the 1910 fires, including a conference in Spokane in October organized by the International Association of Wildland Fire.

But you don’t have to wait to start soaking in some of the history about the fires that occurred 100 years ago. The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula has opened an exhibit named “When the Mountains Roared: The Fire of 1910”. The museum describes it like this:

The great fires of 1910 transformed the face of the West, redefined the U.S. Forest Service, and created today’s forests. With objects, interactive components, and many never-before-seen photographs, this will be the biggest exhibit installation at the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula in several years.

The Missoulian has an article that describes the exhibit in much more detail. It appears to be a very worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours.

Thanks Dick

Washington DC metro train drives through fire

Riders on a Washington D.C. Metro train had a commute on March 19 that was less boring than usual when their train drove through or adjacent to a vegetation fire. It is interesting that the train stopped right next to the fire. Maybe firefighters had equipment or hoses on the track. Here is how it was described by the person that shot the video:

I saw smoke from another train station; once I knew that our train would be passing right by it; I started recording…I didn’t know the fire went from going by, to going under.

One of the first places the video appeared was on Unsuck DC Metro, where one commenter had this to say:

I was there! On that train. I wondered why we were driving through flames but not much I could do about it. Flames on both sides – first “stage right” on the right outside edge, which is what that video appears to show and then just as we passed by, more flames on the left in the middle of the track area.

Only human was one fellow off to “stage-right” of the train outside of the fence with a hoe. He was slowly and barely pushing flaming bits back through a hole in the fence. NO other human around!

The entire car went “whoa!” and watched as we flamed by the flames.

BAe 146-200 air tanker conversion

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

I’m not sure how we missed this before, but on October 28, 2009 the BAe-146-200 that is being converted to an air tanker by Tronos made its first drop over Prince Edward Island in Canada. According to the company “The aircraft performed flawlessly as did the tank and delivery system.”

Here are some stats about the aircraft, taken from the Tronos web site:

  • Water / retardant capacity: 3,000 USG
  • Range: 2,700km / 1,200 nm
  • Turn-around time: 8 minutes
  • Typical drop speed / altitude: 120 knots (138 mph) @ 150 feet (200km/h (124 mph) @ 46 meters)
  • Cruise speed: 330 knots (600 km/h) (380 mph)
  • Fast fill / Variable flow delivery system
  • Short take-off length and steep field approach
  • Air-brake / flap combination: improves low speed maneouvrability

The aircraft Tronos is converting is number N608AW, serial number E2049, manufactured in 1986.


In a comment, Ken mentioned the fact that Minden Air, at Minden, Nevada, is also converting a BAe 146-200 into an air tanker. In 2004 and 2005 Minden and Tronos were talking about working together to convert a BAe-146-200 into an air tanker, but that project fizzled out. Minden acquired one, number N606AW, serial number 2033, but now it has been turned into scrap at Minden.

N606aw scrapped
N606AW scrapped at Minden Air

The company did some low-level flight testing in 2004 with a BAe 146-200, flying a total of nine sorties with the aircraft configured much like an air tanker.

BAe-146 air tanker test
Minden’s low-level flight test of a BAe-146-200 in 2004.

But in January, 2009 Minden acquired another BAe-146-200, number N446MA, serial number E2111, manufactured in 1989. Minden intends to have this aircraft converted into an air tanker for the 2010 fire season. Some of the approvals they will have to get include a Supplemental Type Certificate from the FAA, and certification from the Interagency Air Tanker Board. BAE Systems, the manufacturer of the aircraft, is consulting with Minden, and will stand by any design and technical contributions they are asked to make. BAE Systems hopes the conversion will be successful so that a new market for their aircraft can be created.

Here are a couple of interesting facts about the BAe-146.

  • In spite of the fact that it has four turbofan engines, it is one of the quietest jet airliners, producing only 80 decibels when taking off.  This meant that in the 1980’s and 1990’s, before other manufacturers reduced the noise from their aircraft, the BAe-146 could land and takeoff at noise-restricted airports when others could not, or at certain times, such as late at night, when others couldn’t.
  • Some of the earliest BAe-146’s had problems with the engines, resulting in the joke that BAe stood for “Bring Another engine”.

Knife vs rotor blade

Here is the text of an Interagency Aviation Safety Alert that was issued on March 23, 2010 by the U.S. Forest Service. It describes damage to a helicopter rotor blade when someone attempted to throw a knife from inside the helicopter to someone standing nearby.  Click on it to see a larger version.
knife into helicopter rotor blade

The safety alert goes on to explain that a similar incident happened a few years ago when a second rocket scientist did the same thing with a set of keys. The document ends with this:


Preliminary fire season outlook for Northern Rockies

They emphasize it is not the official outlook, but The Northern Rockies region has posted a “Preliminary Fire Season 2010 Outlook“. When you click on the link, it starts a narrated presentation.

Here are a couple of screen grabs.

Snow pack

Fire Season Outlook 2010
Three-month outlook for temperature on the left, and precipitation on the right. Created March 18. Click for a larger view.

Thanks Chuck