Fire Mapper grounded for 3 weeks

The “Fire Mapper” aircraft operated by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region has been providing some excellent images of fires for several years. Check them out HERE. But it has engine problems and will be out of service for the next three weeks. You would think that with the situation in California, that there would be a way to get the aircraft back in the air in less than three weeks.

The Piper Navajo “Fire Mapper”, N70Z

Chief Mountain Hot Shots remember MacDonald

There is an excellent article in the Great Falls Tribune about Michael MacDonald, the member of the Chief Mountain Hot Shots who died June 29 in the mid-air collision between two medical helicopters at Flagstaff, AZ. Here is a brief excerpt, but go to the site and read the whole article.

“We’ve had a good string of luck for 17 years, and finally our tragedy has struck,” said St. Goddard, who said firefighting is the seventh-most dangerous job in America, according to statistics he’s seen.

Maurice St. Goddard, a friend of MacDonald’s since sixth grade, remembers working beside him the day before his death, while fighting a huge fire on the edge of the Grand Canyon.

“We were working hard to get a (clear fire) line to the top of the ridge and tie it into another line,” Maurice St. Goddard said. “He really pulled me up — he told me never to quit.”

Maurice St. Goddard said MacDonald drew pictures of horses on his leather gloves and made up a story about how the Blackfeet Tribe had stolen the horses from the Spanish and driven them across the Grand Canyon. The tall tale made his weary crew laugh.

“We were tired, but after we had achieved our objective, (MacDonald) was just skiing down the mountain (on broken rock), having fun, and the firefighters in front of him were trying to get out of his way,” Maurice St. Goddard said.

On the day of MacDonald’s death, the Hot Shots dug more line through the morning, and then managed to take a break for a hot lunch that was flown in.

“I was sitting all alone, and Mike came and joined me,” said Kayla LaPier, the only female on the squad, a basketball cheerleader whom MacDonald recruited to join the Hot Shots crew. “There were flames all over and he said, ‘Sit back and enjoy the show.’”

MacDonald was like a big brother to her, LaPier said.

“He took care of me, and he taught me things I didn’t know,” she said. “He was always there to listen to me and to keep my spirits up.”

“We had dug line all day and cleared brush, then we had lunch and Mike left,” said Jess Racine, with tears running down his face. “After lunch, we jumped a hot spot and knocked it out. Then we got a call, and they told us Mike had been in a helicopter crash.”

The funeral services will be at the Browning High School, 112 1st Ave. SW, Browning, MT July 5 at 2:00 pm.

The lineup for participating fire apparatus will be at noon. Fire agencies wishing to send a vehicle should contact Dustin at 406-450-4273 or Mike at 406-868-8626

Click HERE for a map of the area.

Smoke across the U.S.

There is so much smoke from so many sources that it is becoming difficult to determine the origin. Today’s smoke map generated by NOAA is very different from the one yesterday. The visibility here in South Dakota is about two miles due to smoke. I just talked with someone in Billings, MT and he said it is about the same there.

So you tell me. Is the smoke in South Dakota coming from the fires in California, or Canada? It seems unlikely it could be coming from both, as the map seems to indicate. Maybe the California smoke is blown to the north occasionally, then later a west wind blows that plume to the east.

California: Basin fire July 3

The Basin complex near Big Sur continues to to grow on the north side, north of Big Sur, and expand slowly on the east side.

A mandatory evacuation notice was issued Wednesday, July 2, for the entire community of Big Sur and the residents of the east side of Highway 1 between Nepenthe north to Andrew Molera State Park. The total length of the evacuated area along the coast highway is now more than 25 miles.

As the fire moves toward the northwest, east of Big Sur, some of the dozer lines have held and some have not. It is within one mile of Pfieffer Big Sur State Park and within 1 to 2 miles of the community of Big Sur.

On the south side crews have been firing along the North Coast Ridge Trail toward the Rodeo Flats Trail and have reached to within about 2-1/2 miles of the Indians fire. Firefighters in this same area firing from the ridge trail down to the coast are making very slow progress.

The fire on the east side is within about 2-1/2 miles of Tassajara and is moving slowly toward the Indians fire, about 4 miles away, and the indirect dozer line, 3 to 7 miles away.

The fire is 64,304 acres and is 3% contained.

Issued at 1200 today:

There is a A RED FLAG WARNING is in effect through tonight for the Basin Complex (West) calling for strong winds along the ridge tops (NW 10-20mph, gusts to 25mph) and low RH values (20-35%) above the marine layer (1500-2000 ft.).

This is going to test the small amount of held line on the south side and will probably cause significant expansion on the east side, pushing the fire closer to Tassajara.

North Carolina: Status of firefighters struck by lightning

Six of the eight firefighters that were struck by lightning in North Carolina on June 28 have been released from the hospital. More about their status HERE. We initially reported on the story HERE. There are too many firefighters being struck by lightning. Here is where we reported on the Flathead Hot Shots that were struck on May 29.

Update on Evergreen's 747 air tanker

I made some inquiries and found out the status of Evergreen’s 747 air tanker. They are still in contract negotiations with the U. S. Forest Service and will soon submit to them a proposal. They are confident that they will have a contract soon thereafter. The aircraft will carry 20,000 gallons and can cruise at mach .85, or 600 mph.

Here is a 22-second video of the 747 dropping water.

A comparison of retardant capacities of air tankers, in gallons.

Type 1: >3,000

747: 20,000
DC-10: 12,000
Martin Mars: 7,200
KC-97: 4,000
C-130A: 3,000
DC-7: 3,000
P3A: 3,000

Type 2: >1,800

DC-6: 2,450
P2V: 2,450
DC-4: 2,000-2,200
SP-2H: 2,000
PB4Y2: 2,000

Type 3: >800

S-2 Turbine: 1,200
S-2: 800
Air Tractor: 800

Type 4: >100

Dromader: 500
Pierce Turbo Thrush: 450
Marsh Turbo Thrush: 380