DC-10 air tanker Captains Jack Maxey (left) and Kevin Hopf will pilot the aircraft to four cities in the United States this week. (Photographed for TheAge by Paul Rovere in Victoria, Australia, December, 2009.)
The schedule for the visits of Air Tanker 910 to airports in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Montana that Wildfire Today told you about last week has been revised due to snow at Rapid City. (An air tanker should not have to suffer the indignity of de-icing.)
The revised schedule for the DC-10 operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier is as follows, but keep in mind that the times are approximate, subject to change, and could vary by up to 30 minutes or so. All times are local.
Tuesday, April 23
Brainerd, Minnesota, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Rapid City, South Dakota, 2 p.m., and departing the next morning
Wednesday, April 24
Billings, Montana, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Missoula, Montana, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
At this time there are no planned tours for the public, but they may be able to see the DC-10 through a fence or from other locations.
Vandenberg Hotshots on the Waldo Canyon Fire. Photo by Kari Greer
In Colorado the local sheriff is responsible for the suppression of wildfires in unincorporated areas, regardless of the amount of training and experience the elected official may have in the management of wildfires. Yesterday the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office released a 27-page report about the Waldo Canyon Fire. A fire that blackened over 18,000 acres, burned 347 homes, and killed two people when it spread into Colorado Springs June 26, 2012. We can add this report to the two already issued by the city of Colorado Springs, and hopefully, a report to be released some day by the U.S. Forest Service which initially had jurisdiction for the fire that started in the Pike National Forest just west of the city.
Even though the most serious impacts of the fire were in Colorado Springs, the city refused to delegate authority for the Incident Management Team to manage the fire within their city limits, and pretty much operated on their own as hundreds of homes in the Mountain Shadows area burned and two people were killed. The County Sheriff’s report referred to this in an indirect way, with the bold and italics as seen below:
“In preparation for the arrival of the Type 1 Team, Delegations of Authority were received from all affected jurisdictions except one agency. ****Note**** Delegations of Authority in this context refer to documents that permit state and national resources to provide assistance in local jurisdictions. These documents do not diminish or relinquish the responsibility of local authority.”
Here are some key developments during the first five days of the fire:
Friday, June 22, 2012. The first smoke report was at 7:50 p.m. The U.S. Forest Service and several agencies responded, but did not locate the smoke. All of the firefighters were released at 9:48 p.m. by the USFS who had assumed command of the incident.
Saturday, June 23, 2012. The next morning at 6:58 a.m. the USFS was back on scene. At 7:30 a.m. there was another report of smoke in the area. At noon after several other reports of smoke, the fire was located. About 20 minutes later more firefighting resources were ordered including a single engine air tanker. This is the first indication of any aviation resources, helicopters or air tankers, being requested for the fire. Shortly after that the Colorado Springs Fire Department ordered the voluntary evacuation of several areas. That afternoon a Type 3 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire and a Type 1 IMTeam was ordered. Mandatory evacuations for some areas began at 3:12 p.m. Continue reading →
Tanker 911 dropping on the Poco Fire in Arizona, June 15, 2012. Photo by Ian James.
UPDATED at 12:19 p.m. Monday, April 22, 2013:
The schedule for the visits of Air Tanker 910 to airports in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Montana described below has been revised due to snow at Rapid City — everything is being pushed by 24 hours. More details at Wildfire Today.
One of the DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers will visit airports in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Montana next week. Air Tanker 910, owned by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, has been in Michigan undergoing heavy maintenance in recent weeks and will leave from there Monday morning, April 22 and head west. On their way home in southern California, their plans are to stop at four cities:
Brainerd, Minnesota, Monday morning;
Rapid City, South Dakota, early Monday afternoon;
Billings, Montana, Tuesday;
Missoula, Montana, Tuesday.
If a DC-10 reloaded at Rapid City it would have to be from a portable retardant base, since it is unlikely that the existing rather cramped Tanker Base could support such a large aircraft, and possibly the weight would be more than the ramp could handle. Rick Hatton, President of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, told us that if they worked out of Brainerd the aircraft would most likely drop water, rather than retardant. Finding a fire hydrant within reach of the three-inch diameter hose the aircraft carries can be easier than accessing a Tanker Base.
The DC-10 always carries 11,600 gallons of fire retardant, about six times more than the 50+ year old Korean War vintage P2V “legacy” air tankers that drop an average of 1,948 gallons according to a 2007-2009 air tanker study.
The U.S. Forest Service has awarded exclusive use contracts for seven P2Vs and one BAe-146 air tanker for 2013. The agency has not yet announced any awards from the solicitation for “next-generation” air tankers they issued 505 days ago. There are indications they will give contracts to 7 next-gen air tankers, bringing the total number of air tankers to 15 for this year. In 2002 there were 44 large air tankers on exclusive use federal contracts. The USFS has said they may again borrow, if needed and available, some old CV-580 air tankers from Canada for a few months that carry 2,000 gallons of fire retardant. The CV-580s were produced between 1947 and 1954.
USFS Chief Tom Tidwell testifies at Committee hearing. Credit Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Testifying Tuesday at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, assured the Senators that there would be an adequate number of firefighting resources available this year.
In spite of budget reductions that will cut 500 firefighters and up to 75 engines from his agency, Chief Tidwell said:
We will have the resources we need.
He said the Forest Service will rely on call-when-needed contracts for air tankers to fight wildfires, but said when they are activated they will cost “one-and-a-half to two-times” more than exclusive use contracts for air tankers that are on duty six days a week.
According to a March 22 report in the Durango Herald, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a letter written to Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, said contracts will be awarded “soon” for seven next-generation air tankers. Secretary Vilsack was responding to a letter Senator Udall sent to the Secretary in January requesting an update on the modernization of the federal air tanker fleet.
The U.S. Forest Service first issued a solicitation for next-generation air tankers 503 days ago but no contracts have been signed. They were almost awarded last summer but were held up by protests filed by two unsuccessful bidders. The solicitation was reissued in October of 2012 but no results have been announced.
During the second half of the western fire season last year, there were between 9 and 11 large air tankers on exclusive use contracts, down from 44 in 2002. If the USFS awards contracts for 7 next-generation air tankers, adding to the 9 Korean War vintage legacy air tankers, the agency may supplement the total with up to 8 old CV-580 air tankers if they are available from Canada and the state of Alaska. In addition, 8 military C-130s may be accessed if they are available and needed.
During the Jasper Fire in 2000 firefighters had a hellofatime keeping the old structure in Jewel Cave from burning. Three times they had to foam the structure and escape as the fire approached and burned around the log building with the wood roof. Just weeks before the fire the wood shingle roof had been replaced with — wood shingles. There are alternative roof materials that look very much like wood but are much more fire resistant.
The 2013 wildfire season
This time of the year some people like to make predictions about how busy the wildfire season will be. USA Today jumps into the fray, and has an interesting graphic. WyoFile also covered the topic.
Dude Fire video
The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center has converted a video about the Dude Fire Staff Ride that was first released on VHS tape in October, 2000. It tells the story of how a fatal blow-up entrapped 11 firefighters and claimed six of their lives.
Wildfire training in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Bureau of Forest Fire Control hosted fire training for 64 firefighters last week on Cape Cod.
Cattle growers endorse bill to increase grazing on federal lands
Two cattle grower organizations are supporting a bill that was recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives. Titled the Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act of 2013 (H.R. 1345), it would streamline the process for approving livestock grazing and timber thinning.
Massive forest thinning project in Arizona
The goal of the Four Forests Restoration Initiative is to thin 1 million acres of ponderosa pine forests over 20 years, from the Grand Canyon to the New Mexico border. The project covers the Kaibab, Coconino, Apache, Sitgreaves, and Tonto national forests.