Prescribed fire at Wind Cave

Yesterday I spent several hours taking photos at a prescribed fire at Wind Cave National Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The park has a long history of prescribed fire, with the first one occurring in 1972. This two-day, 652-acre project was called Headquarters West, and was between the campground and the park headquarters.

Photo taken from near the south entrance, about 4 hours after first ignition.
The test burn was at the top of a STEEP hill with lots of loose rock. I only fell once while going back down.

It got a little smoky at times. We used to occasionally carry carbon monoxide (CO) diffusion tubes to monitor the CO levels. Drager, the company that made those now sells a pocket-sized electronic CO monitor that can easily be used by wildland firefighters.

HERE is information about the single-gas, pocket-size monitor made by Drager.

Cooling off a hot area near the line.

Thanks to Jim McMahill, Fire Management Officer, and his staff for their hospitality.

Some of the video that I shot is scheduled to be on the 5:30 evening news Friday on the Rapid City KOTA television station.

HERE is a link to the video.

Video of Martin Mars dropping on Mt. Wilson

Here are two videos of the 7,200-gallon Martin Mars air tanker dropping on Mt. Wilson, on the Station fire near Los Angeles. The first one was shot from cameras on-board the aircraft and from the air tanker’s lead helicopter.

The next one is from the local ABC TV station, and shows it taking off from Lake Elsinore and then dropping on Mt. Wilson.

As we reported yesterday, the Martin Mars dropped three times on Mt. Wilson, dropping Thermo-Gel each time, for a total of 14,000 gallons.

Lone Ranger told us about THIS link which has the history of this 64-year old aircraft.

Thanks to @chrisale_ for the tip about the first video.

Martin Mars drops 64,000 gallons on two fires

The Martin Mars 7,200-gallon air tanker, air tanker 223, has been somewhat busy over the last few days, but not as busy as the company would like, apparently. Someone on Twitter who calls themselves “HawaiiMars” and knows a lot about the company complains each day that they do not have an assignment. For example:

  • Sept. 1 at 12:22 a.m. (referring to August 31): “The Mars sat on the Lake all day and didn’t fly one mission, suprising with all the fires burning”
  • Sept. 1 at 12:26 p.m.: “Mars still sitting on Lake Elsinore not flying”
  • Sept. 1 at 1:16 p.m.: “Mars still not flying”
  • Sept. 1 at 3:22 p.m.: “Fires Still Burning, Mars still Sitting On The Lake”

But in spite of the whining, since August 15 they have worked on the La Brea, Cottonwood, Oak Glen, and Station fires. In 4.5 hours on the initial attack of the Oak Glen fire on August 30 they made 9 drops for a total of 50,000 gallons. That is a shitload of water from one air tanker in 4.5 hours. Most likely they mixed Class A foam concentrate or Thermo-Gel with the water.

Yesterday on the Station fire they made three drops of Thermo-Gel for a total of 14,000 gallons.

Apparently they have only been able to carry about 4,600 to 5,500 gallons the last few days, due to the altitude of the fires and the density-altitude. Mt. Wilson is at 5,700 feet.

Martin Mars "sitting" at Lake Elsinore, 2008. Photo:

The aircraft is versatile, in that it can drop plain water scooped from a lake, water with Class A foam, or water mixed with gel concentrate like it dropped on Mt. Wilson on Tuesday. If a lake is close that they can use for scooping, the aircraft can put a lot of liquid on a fire in a hurry. Today “HawaiiMars” claimed:

“The Hawaii is one of the least expensive tankers, our Daily Cost Per Gallon averages less then $2.00 per gallon delievered”

747 air tanker makes first drop on live fire in lower 48 states

Evergreen’s 747 “Supertanker” made its first drop on a live fire in the lower 48 states today. Flying out of McClellan near Sacramento it made at least two drops on the Station fire. It split its 20,000 gallon capacity into two separate drops of about 10,000 gallons each, without having to make the 55-minute one-way return trip to McClellan to reload.

The Fox TV station out of Los Angeles got two of the drops on tape. Click on the image below to play the video. (UPDATE: the video is no longer available)

The plane may also have dropped earlier in the day on a fire near Yucaipa, southeast of Los Angeles.

As Wildfire Today reported on July 30, the 747 made its first drop on a live fire in Spain in mid-July. The second fire it dropped on was the Railbelt Complex in Alaska on July 31. If it also dropped on the Yucaipa fire earlier today, then the Station fire was the fourth fire it has dropped on.

Here are a couple of screen grabs from today’s video.

Below is the photo of the 747 on the Railbelt Complex in Alaska on July 31 that we published on August 1.

Preliminary information about the fallen LACFD firefighters

At a press conference today Mike Bryant, Deputy Fire Chief the Los Angeles County Fire Department, provided some preliminary information about the deaths of the two firefighters we reported on August 30.

Captain Tedmund D. Hall, 47, and Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo Quinones, 35, (left to right above) were working with 65 other firefighters attempting to protect Camp 16 from the Station fire. As the fire got near the camp, Quinones and Hall got into a pickup truck in order to reposition it. Somehow during that repositioning the truck left the road and tumbled down the slope, ending up 800 feet below the road.

Photo: Jason Redmond

The fire overran Camp 16 (above) totally destroying the facilities, according to the Chief Bryant. “Many” firefighters suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation, but all were treated and released.

There will be a formal inquiry, including a serious accident review.

Services are being planned for Quinones and Hall, but have not yet been finalized.

Again, our condolences go out to the families and co-workers.