Wildfire news, August 18, 2012

Followup on the fatality of Anne Veseth

The Associated Press has an article that provides more information about Anne Veseth, the firefighter that was killed by a falling snag on Sunday, August 12.

“Her cards were up,” said mother Claire Veseth, 55, a nurse in this college town. “It was an act of God.”

Los Angeles City FD adds another helicopter to its fleet

The Los Angeles City Fire Department is leasing an Erickson Air Crane for four months. This baby has a forward-pointing water cannon designed for high-rise fires. It can fill its tank two different ways, by the usual hover-and-draft  mode, or by lowering a pipe and scooping water as it flies at speed over a large water source.

 

42 uncontained large fires in the US

After having 70 uncontained large fires in the country on Wednesday, that number is now down to 40. The number of incident management teams committed, including Type 1, Type 2, NIMO, and Area Command, has declined from 31 to 28. Six military MAFFS C-130s are still actively working out of Boise and Sacramento.

Smoke from wildfires

The smoke map shows dense smoke in Idaho and also an interesting area of dense smoke over the Atlantic east of Maine.

Wildfire smoke map, 6:36 p.m. MT, August 18, 2012
Wildfire smoke map, 6:36 p.m. MT, August 18, 2012. NOAA (click to enlarge)

USFS issues RFI for Very Large Air Tankers

The U.S. Forest Service has issued a Request for Information which could lead to Call When Needed contracts for Very Large Air Tankers beginning next year continuing through 2015. 10 Tanker Air Carrier currently has a CWN contract for their two DC-10s, but it remains to be seen if any company with VLATs can succeed financially if they are only used for 60 to 100 hours each year, with no guarantees of ANY income. Evergreen in the past has not been interested in signing up their 20,000-gallon 747 Super Tanker on a CWN contract. The RFI specifies that the aircraft must be able to hold at least 10,000 gallons. The USFS expects to issue a Request for Proposals later in the year which they think could lead to one to three VLATs under CWN contracts in 2013. Or… it could lead to none.

Secretary of Agriculture explains why very large air tankers are not being used on Colorado fires

A reporter for 9news.com in Colorado, in the video below, asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who supervises the U.S. Forest Service, why the very large air tankers like the two DC-10s or the 747 have not been used on fires in Colorado. His answers revolved around “every fire is different” and “it’s complicated”.

Thanks go out to Trish and Rick.

Evergreen speculates that small business contracting requirements prevented the use of their Supertanker

747 air tanker dropping during a test in Arizona
747 air tanker dropping during a test in Arizona. Evergreen photo.

Evergreen International Aviation, the company that built the 20,000-gallon air tanker, or “Supertanker” as they call it, has released a statement that attempts to answer some of the many questions they have received asking why the U.S. Forest Service refuses to use the 747 air tanker, which carries about 10 times more than a P2V. The company says they have never received an explanation from the USFS, but speculates that contracting requirements favoring small businesses may be the reason.

The USFS only offered the two companies with Very Large Air Tankers call when needed contracts, not exclusive use contracts. Without any guaranteed income, Evergreen turned the offer down, while 10 Tanker Air Carrier is struggling to remain in business after accepting a CWN contract for one of their two DC-10 air tankers, which is used only rarely by the USFS.

Below is the text of Evergreen’s statement:

============================================================

Date: 6/29/12

Evergreen International Aviation Statement Concerning the Supertanker

We felt compelled to release this statement due to the overwhelming amount of calls we have received concerning the availability of the Evergreen Supertanker. We at Evergreen are saddened by the fire devastation now taking place in many Western US states. For over 60 years, we have supported the US Forest Service in its important mission to battle and control fires, and it is our desire to continue this rich history of service. While our helicopters continue to work fires for the State of Alaska under State contracts, unfortunately, our Boeing 747 Supertanker Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) aircraft awaits activation with the US Forest Service.

We have never been told why we have not been activated by the US Forest Service, so we can only speculate as to why we face this outcome:

1. We were offered a Call-When-Needed (CWN) contract a few years ago by the US ForestService (proving our technical viability), but we were never called into action resulting in a multi-million dollar loss to our company as we were required to maintain and have flight crew available should we be called. The only contact that will sustain a VLAT program is an Exclusive-Use contract, which provides an income stream to sustain the program even if the asset is not utilized. We invested over $50M to develop this asset in the firm belief that we could better control fires as we proved in Israel and Mexico under CWN contracts that we could afford to offer at the time.

2. There have been recent changes to the US Forest Service procurement policies. Today,only small businesses are eligible for contract awards concerning airtanker assets; Evergreen is not a small business and, therefore, is excluded from consideration for any award.

3. The US Forest Service’s specification for Next Generation Air Tanker aircraft limits tanksize to 5,000 gallons. The Supertanker’s tanks hold about 20,000 gallons, which is considered outside the USFS specification. The USFS just awarded contracts to four small businesses with aircraft equipped with these smaller tanks, and excluded the Evergreen Supertanker. Since World War II, tank capacities have been in the 3,000 to 5,000 gallon range, yet continue to face the growing threat from mega fires today. We believe the Supertanker represents an overwhelming response to this growing threat.

Please contact your state representatives in Washington DC to demand an examination of their current procurement policies concerning VLAT aircraft. The US Forest Service says it best: “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”

Evergreen International Aviation, Inc., Tel: 503.472.9361 www.EvergreenAviation.com

(end of statement)

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Thanks go out to Hsaive

USFS “shores up” air tanker fleet

In the aftermath of Sunday’s tragic air tanker accidents in which two pilots working for Neptune Aviation were killed, and a second air tanker made an emergency landing on disabled landing gear, the U.S. Forest Service announced today that they have “shored up” the air tanker fleet by temporarily adding some aircraft. They are arranging for two CV-580 air tankers to become available on a temporary basis. One is under contract with the state of Alaska and the other is being borrowed from the Canadian Interagency Fire Centre. The CV-580s can carry 2,100 gallons of retardant, about the same as the P2Vs that currently comprise eight of the nine air tankers on exclusive use contracts with the USFS, but they are speedier, cruising 115 mph faster than the P2Vs.

CAL FIRE reached out to the USFS and allowed the federal agency to arrange to bring on two CAL FIRE air tankers, presumably S-2Ts, one month earlier than they would have come on duty otherwise. These two aircraft will be used in California. An S-2T carries 1,200 gallons of retardant.

The USFS is also bringing on five large Type 1 helicopters earlier than previously scheduled.

When I saw the headline on the USFS news release announcing they were “shoring up” the air tanker fleet, I wondered if they were finally announcing that they have awarded multiple contracts for “new generation” air tankers. The solicitation for the next-gen air tankers closed in February, but as usual, the U.S. Forest Service office of Fire and Aviation Management has difficulty making decisions. There was also the possibility that they were going to announce exclusive use contracts or call when needed activations for the very large air tankers, such as the DC-10’s or the 747, but that did not happen either.

This “shoring up” tactic is smoke and mirrors — a band-aid on a serious case of analysis-paralysis cancer in the agency. It is simply a distraction from the real issue.

We have tried to find out the details of the USFS’ solicitation for a sixth air tanker study, which closed April 20, but calls to Kellan Logan, the USFS contracting officer in charge of the solicitation, have not been returned.

UPDATE AT 9:13 a.m. MT, June 7:

We heard from Mr. Logan today about the sixth air tanker study, which has been awarded.

Wallow fire burns through Greer, Arizona

Updated at 8:30 p.m. MT, June 9, 2011: A damage assessment of the fire’s run through Greer last night revealed that 22 houses burned. More information. And the size of the fire has been revised again. Wednesday morning it was reported by the incident management team to be 389,000 acres, then Thursday morning, 348,235, and later on Thursday, 386,690 acres and for the first time, some degree of containment: 5%.

Information from the IMTeam released tonight:

Dozer line construction took place along Highway 260 going west from Eagar to Highway 373 junction; then southeast to Greer Lake in prep for burnout for tonight’s operational period. Firefighters are prepping with dozer line in the south end of Greer Valley heading southwest to Highway 273 at Sheep’s Crossing for an additional burnout. Dozer line will take place on the east side of Escudilla Mountain extending southeast towards Luna, New Mexico for burnout. All fuel moistures are extremely low.

Updated at 4:01 p.m. MT, June 9, 2011: Replaced map of north portion of Wallow fire with updated version.

Updated at 2:57 p.m. MT, June 9, 2011: Added a new type of map, showing Fire Radiative Power, or fire intensity.

Updated at 11:56 a.m. MT, June 9, 2011: An update from the incident management team posted at InciWeb at 11:00 a.m. MT included information about evacuations, and this information:

  • Size: 348,235 acres based on last night’s infrared flight
  • 0% contained
  • Structures lost: 16
  • Fire Upate: Last night, fire crews concentrated their efforts prepping roads and dozer lines for burnout operations south of Route 851 and Circle Flat area that leads into New Mexico. Fire activity increased on the west side of the fire towards the communities of Greer and Eagar due to high wind and low humidity.Crews are currently stationed at Big Lake to reduce travel times, ensuring firefighter safety. Structural protection is in place in Greer, South Fork, Eagar, Alpine, Nutrioso, and Escudillo Flats. Firefighters will be conducting burnout operations on the northern and eastern portions of the fire to p limit the fire’s spread. Firefighters continue to hold line, mop-up, and patrol other areas of the fire. Creeping, smoldering, and active backing fire with short upslope runs was observed yesterday on the southern portion of fire. Firefighters are constructing indirect line and conducting burnout operations. Today southwest winds of 8-15mph with gusts to 25 mph are expected.

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Updated at 9:22 a.m. MT, June 9, 2011: added information about the 747 and DC-10 air tankers.

Wallow fire 6-7-2011
Wallow fire 6-7-2011. In this long exposure, you can see the trails of what appear to be firefighters with headlamps carrying lit drip torches igniting a burnout. Photo: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

The Wallow fire burned through the small unincorporated community of Greer, Arizona Wednesday evening. Greer has a population of about 177 people and some tourist lodges. The incident management team posted this at InciWeb at approximately 10:00 p.m. Wednesday:

Fire has gone through Greer. We do not know the extent of the damage at this time. Firefighters are on scene in Greer conducting structure protection activities.

The last acreage reported was 389,000, a figure supplied by the incident management team Wednesday morning. That will no doubt be revised upward later today. They are reporting that the fire is 0% contained.

Very Large Air Tankers

KPHO, the CBS television station in Phoenix, reported on Wednesday that Evergreen’s 747 Supertanker was going to be used:

PHOENIX — Fire officials said they are bringing in a Boeing 747 supertanker that is retrofitted to drop a mile-long line of fire retardant.

Evergreen International Aviation said the supertanker has more than eight times the drop capability and twice the speed of any other federal air tanker currently fighting fires.

That report, even though it was picked up by numerous web sites and spread around the internet like, uh, wildfire, is incorrect. Wildfire Today talked with Steven Daniels who leads the 747 Supertanker program at Evergreen and he said the 747 is not being dispatched. As we reported yesterday in a story about the use of Very Large Air Tankers, the U.S. Forest Service is not interested in agreeing to an exclusive use contract with Evergreen or 10 Tanker Air Carrier for their 747 or the DC-10 air tankers.

However, Rick Hatton, the CEO of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, told Wildfire Today Thursday at 9:30 a.m. MT that one of their two DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers, Tanker 911, was en route to Phoenix Mesa Gateway airport to work on the fires. They still do not have any kind of a contract with the USFS, so they are being activated through a Call When Needed contract the company has with CalFire. This is the same methodology used when the DC-10 was used in Texas a few weeks ago. The other DC-10, Tanker 910, is on a fire assignment in Canada.

More information about the Wallow fire

Scroll down to see more information and the latest maps of the Wallow fire. We will update the maps on Thursday as new data is available.

Continue reading “Wallow fire burns through Greer, Arizona”

Evergreen’s 747 Supertanker assigned to fires in Mexico

747 dropping in Haifa Israel Dec 5 2010
File photo of the 747 dropping in Haifa Israel Dec 5 2010

Evergreen’s 747 Supertanker is en route to Mexico to help suppress five fires that are burning in the state of Coahuila, which shares a border with Texas. The aircraft departed Pinal Air Park near Tucson this afternoon and arrived at Lackland Air Force base near San Antonio, Texas at 5:21 MT today.

Steve Daniels of Evergreen told Wildfire Today that he expects the 747 to make its first drops later today. Lackland is about 140 miles from the fires, 15-20 minutes in a 747, so the Supertanker will be based at Lackland and will be reloading retardant there also. The Supertanker cruises at 500-550 knots (575 to 632 mph), which will mean the ship can do turn-arounds in about an hour, that is, depart Lackland, travel to the fires, drop, return, and reload. Evergreen has arranged for ICL Performance Products to have four to five trucks waiting at Lackland with tanks of already-mixed retardant.

Daniels said the Supertanker will be working through Conafor, the Comisión Nacional Forestal.

As far as we are aware, the last time the 747 was used on a fire was in December, 2010, when it made several drops on a wildfire in Israel.

Map of Mexico and Texas fires 4-12-2011
NASA image, showing the fires in southwest Texas and the Mexican state of Coahuila, April 10, 2011 at 11:30 p.m. MT.

Below is more information about the fires in Mexico, from the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Continue reading “Evergreen’s 747 Supertanker assigned to fires in Mexico”