The staffing of the Santa Maria air tanker base in southern California, first covered HERE on Wildfire Today, has generated a lot of controversy. The U.S. Forest Service has issued statements and news releases, some of them confusing, saying they are going to cease staffing the base during fire season except on a call when needed basis. Their plans are to rely on CalFire’s Paso Robles air tanker base which is 58 air miles north of Santa Maria.
The Santa Maria Times has an article that provides more details HERE. [UPDATE 11-9-2011: The article has been removed]
The U.S. Forest Service has released a preliminary briefing on Saturday’s crash of Air Tanker 42 in Utah:
Subject: Preliminary (24-Hour) Briefing
To: Ron Hanks
THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS PRELIMINARY AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE
Location: Toole Utah
Date of occurrence: April 25, 2009
Time of occurrence: 10:00 AM
Team leader: NTSB (Kurt Anderson)
Activity: Firefighting airtanker under operational control of New Mexico
Number injured: 0
Number of fatalities: 3
Property damage (such as to vessels, equipment, and structures): Total loss of airframe
Narrative: At approximately 10:00 am Mountain Standard Time, a P2V airtanker with a crew of 3, registered to Neptune aviation impacted terrain near Toole Utah in the Stockton Pass area. All three occupants onboard were killed. The aircraft was traveling from Missoula Montana to respond to the Four Mile fire in Chaves County. This fire and the associated flight was under the operational control of the State of New Mexico The occupants were identified as Tom Risk, Pilot, of Littleton CA, Mike Flynn, co-pilot, of Alamogordo, NM and Brian Buss ,Crew chief of Alberton Montana.
Aircraft debris was scattered over an area approximately 500 feet long and weather conditions at the time of the accident were described as foggy with low ceilings, wind and blowing snow.
The NTSB has assigned Kurt Anderson as Investigator in Charge and the FAA is also participating in the investigation. The investigation team has been on site since Sunday Morning along with representatives from Neptune aviation.
The Forest Service has contacted the NTSB Investigator in Charge to offer any support or assistance as needed. The AFF tracking system has been saved for investigation purposes and the aircraft has the APAREO system on board which may help reconstruct some information from the history of the flight.
A P2V Neptune air tanker crashed in the Oquirrh mountains today in Utah, killing the three-person crew. The crash occurred between Tooele and Stockton (map).
Tthe three men who died in the crash have been identified as:
Tom Risk, 66, from Littleton, Colo., pilot
Mike Flynn, 59, from Alamogordo, N.M., crew member
Brian Buss, 32, from Alberton, Mont., crew member
The aircraft, Tanker 42, was owned by Neptune Aviation of Missoula, Montana and was enroute from Missoula to Alamorgordo, New Mexico.
The county sheriff began searching for a crash site after a nearby resident reported hearing a large aircraft overhead then what sounded like “two semis crashing head on” at about 10 a.m. At about 11:15 a.m., the sheriff’s office learned through sources in Idaho that an airplane was reported missing. Due to low clouds, searchers were initially unable to locate the crash site until 1 p.m. when the clouds lifted.
Deputies and search and rescue crews retrieved the victims from the crash site and were working late Saturday afternoon to bring the bodies down from the mountainside. That task was made difficult by low clouds, rain and steep terrain.
Our condolences go out to the families and co-workers of the crew.
K. Tyler Miller at the Random Ramblings blog has been doing some research on Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) and has dug up some interesting information. You should go check it out.
They had a link to what turned out to be a great video of Dromader SEATs in action, with most of the footage being shot from a cockpit camera. Those pilots are very brave, judging from how they repeatedly flew into smoke, with zero visibility, for several seconds at a time.
Check out Random Ramblings, but in the meantime, here is the video.
The Bureau of Land Management will consolidate their air tanker operations that have been at Minden-Tahoe airport and Reno-Stead airport into just having facilities at the Reno-Stead airport.
On the map below, Lake Tahoe is the large lake on the left or west side of the map.)
The BLM says they no longer have the funding to fully staff both bases.
The closing of the air tanker facilities is generating some conflicting opinions in the public comments following an article at RGJ.com. But the reality is, the two bases are only 36 miles apart, which is about 10-15 minutes flying time for an air tanker, depending on the type.
Pilar Castro, a Wenatchee, Wash., firefighter said to be in his mid-20s, suffered a fractured skull and broken ribs when the top of a dead tree broke off and struck him Wednesday, said Robin DeMario, spokeswoman for the Okanogan-Wenatchee
Castro, a member of a hot shot crew, had to have surgery on his skull and part of his jaw reconstructed. He was flown by helicopter to Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg.
The firefighter remained there in fair condition this morning, a hospital spokeswoman said. DeMario said Castro is expected to fly today to a hospital in Wenatchee, where he will undergo rehabilitation for about a month.
Last Wednesday evening, a firefighter was injured while cutting a dead tree with a chain saw along the fire line. He was injured near his cheek and bruised his ribs. After being airlifted to the hospital in Roseburg, he was treated for his injuries and is recuperating. On Sunday, he will be flown home to Washington State where he is expected to make a full recovery. It was very fortunate that his accident occurred near an established helicopter landing site where he could be air lifted for immediate medical treatment.
Thanks for the tip, LR
Oregon: Rattle fire spots 2 miles ahead
Rocks and logs on Highway 138, Sept. 10, 2008
The fire on which the firefighter was injured while falling a snag last week has been very active.
Idleyld Park, OR — Yesterday’s severe fire weather conditions contributed to some very extreme fire behavior. A plume of smoke rose to over 35,000 feet and carried fire brands up to 2 miles from the head of the fire. The fire grew an estimated 4,183 acres and now totals 11,207 acres, most of which remains within the boundary of the Boulder Creek Wilderness.
San Diego County is gradually taking steps to increase their fire preparedness after being criticized in reports following their massive fires of 2003 and 2007. The City of San Diego recently purchased their second helicopter, and the County is contracting for two Bombardier CL-415 Superscooper air tankers and a lead plane for three months.
HERE is a link to a page with a video from San Diego 6 that shows a demonstration of the aircraft in action Tuesday.
Contract firefighter dies following road grader accident
A 77-year-old Happy Camp man has died from injuries suffered while serving as a contract firefighter in Siskiyou County, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman said Tuesday.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday commended Curtis Hillman Sr. for his service and announced that Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff in his honor, a spokesman from his office said.
Hillman, a member of the Karuk tribe, was operating a grader to improve road conditions and access for firefighters. They were working the Siskiyou and Blue 2 Complex of fires when Hillman was injured Aug. 25, public information officer Mike Ferris said.
He was working on forest roads 14 and 21, about half a mile from Highway 96 just south of Dillon Creek Campground, Ferris said. The area is halfway between Happy Camp and Orleans.
When his grader failed to start, Hillman and another worker tried to fix the problem. The grader then started, but its brake failed and it began to roll backward. Both men fell or jumped off the machine, and Hillman hit his head, Ferris said.
He was flown to Mercy Medical Center in Redding, where he died from his injuries Thursday, Ferris said.
His is the 13th death as a result of the June lightning strikes that ignited fires across the north state.
A celebration of Hillman’s life is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the River Park Pavilion in Happy Camp, Ferris said.