Air Spray moves into California, will convert BAe-146 into air tanker

Air Spray BAe-146 Credit Air Spray
Air Spray’s BAe-146. Credit Air Spray

Air Spray Aviation Services, which operates Lockheed L-188 Electra “Longliner” air tankers and Turbo Commander 690 “Bird Dog” aircraft in Canada, has established a new United States headquarters at Chico, California. They announced yesterday that they have acquired a BAe-146 airliner which they will convert into an air tanker.

Currently Neptune Aviation operates two BAe-146 air tankers which were converted by the Prince Edward Island based Tronos Aviation. Minden Air Corporation has been working on converting a BAe-146 for at least a couple of years but their version has not yet dropped on a fire. Minden has a contract with the US Forest Service to supply two of them, one in 2012 and the second in 2013. Aero Flight has a contract to provide two Avro Rj85s in 2013, an aircraft that is a variant of the BAe-146.

The BAe-146 is considered a “next generation” air tanker by the US Forest Service. It is jet powered, can cruise at 498 mph, and the Tronos version has a maximum capacity of 3,000 gallons of retardant.

Thanks go out to Johnny

Engine crew entrapment: “I thought I was going to die”

Flat Fire, July 11, 2012
Flat Fire, July 11, 2012. Photo credit, Norcal1

A Facilitated Learning Analysis for the entrapment of an engine crew tells the harrowing story of five firefighters who had a very close call on the Flat Fire on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in northern California July 14, 2012. Their survival may have been due in part to the fire above them burning through the trunk line on their hose lay, causing a leak which sprayed water on the fire creating an opening for the crew to escape back to the engine. Until then, at least one of the crew members thought he was going to die.

The crew of Engine 1 was attempting to suppress a 1/4-acre slopover below a road by installing a progressive hose lay. Initially the fire behavior was minimal, with one-foot flame lengths. They had completed 300 feet of the hose lay when the main fire made a run up to their location.

The entire FLA can be found here, but below is an excerpt:


…The Engine 1 Engine Operator (ENOP) takes substantial heat from the fire run and takes shelter in the engine, then gets out and begins defensive engine protection with a 1.5 inch hose. This run hits the fireline and ignites additional spot fires east of the B spur to the south and east of the position of the Engine 1 crew and the original slopover. Flame lengths and rate of spread on these fires increase dramatically. The amounts of smoke and noise on the B spur increase also with the increased fire behavior making communication over short distances nearly impossible. The Engine 1 Engine Boss (ENGB) calls Division Supervisor (DIVS) Z (T) and states that they are abandoning the hoselay. This transmission is heard by Engine 2 and the engine Strike Team Leader and Strike Team Leader trainee (who are driving up French Creek Road towards DP-2). DIVS Z (T) responds saying that he had been trying to contact the ENGB to advise them to withdraw from their position because of increasing fire behavior, but was unable due to the high level of radio traffic. Radio traffic on Division Tac only pauses briefly and then resumes to being almost continuous.

The Engine 1 ENGB and the crew begin to rapidly withdraw back up the slope towards the engine as the fire closes around them. The ground is wet and slippery with foam from the initial suppression efforts and the slope is about 30 percent. The ENGB considers escaping downhill and rejects this option because it would mean leaving the ENOP in a hazardous position. As the crew moves uphill towards the engine, fire downhill of them continues to close, compromising a downhill escape route.

The ENOP considers cutting the hoselay and escaping in the engine and rejects this option because it would mean cutting off the water supply to the crew’s hoselay, leaving them without protection. The ENOP continues defensive engine protection.

The fire makes another run up from Pelletreau Creekand the fire to the east of the B spur closes to block the escape route of the Engine 1 crew while the crew is about 30 feet from the road, creating an entrapment.

Visiting the site after the incident, a member of the crew stated, “I thought that I was going to die, right here.” After a moment, the fire ahead of the entrapped crew burns through the trunk line on the hoselay spraying water on the fire and creating an opening for the crew to escape back to the engine.

As the crew reaches the B spur, there is a large pine torching next to Engine 1 and the front left tire is burning along with vegetation next to it, making their position at the engine untenable.

The ENGB transmits over Division Tac that the channel be cleared for emergency traffic, and then calls DIVS Z (T) on Division Tac requesting additional resources and states Engine 1 is on fire and that he is abandoning the engine. All five crewmembers from Engine 1 walk north up the B spur about 150 or 200 feet until they reach cooler air and less smoke. DIVS Z (T) calls the Engine 1 ENGB and confirms that the Engine 1 crew is accounted for and there are no injuries. Three crew members from Engine 1 then move west to the black and onto the dozer line. Hearing the declaration of“emergency traffic” from Engine 1, DIVS Z returns to the engine, which is still running but is abandoned. At this point, the fire behavior has moderated dramatically. He backs the engine off the burning vegetation into the road and then continues to DP-2. The Interagency Hot Shot Crew (IHC) Superintendent drives down from DP-2 and sees the ENGB and ENOP on the B spur. He takes the ENOP back to the engine (and the ENGB follows on foot) and together they extinguish the burning tire with a fire extinguisher from Engine 1 and the pump on the superintendent’s vehicle, check the engine for additional fire and damage, and then move the engine onto the dozer line.


Red flag warnings and record-breaking heat expected in California

A weather forecast for record-breaking triple-digit heat and single digit humidities has brought out a red flag warning for some areas in southern California for Monday and Tuesday. The temperatures are expected to be about 20 degrees hotter than normal,  between 95 and 105 at the lower elevations in the mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties on Monday, then a few degrees cooler on Tuesday. Downtown Los Angeles is expected to hit 100 degrees on Monday, with it reaching 105 degrees in Burbank and Pasadena.

Northeast winds at 10 to 20 mph with 30 mph gusts are expected on Monday, with Tuesday afternoon bringing 25 mph onshore winds.

Red Flag Warnings, October 1, 2012

The map below shows the area in southern California covered by the red flag warning, which is in effect from 6 a.m. Monday until 6 p.m. PDT Tuesday.

Red Flag Warning, Southern California, October 1, 2012

There is also a red flag warning for some areas in northwest Montana for gusty winds and low humidities from 11 a.m. through midnight MDT on Monday. The winds are expected to be southwest at 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 50, with the humidities as low as 16 percent.

The passage of a cold front has resulted in a red flag warning for western Minnesota from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. CDT on Monday. Winds should be northwest at 20 with gusts up to 30 mph along with humidities as low as 20 percent.

A fire weather watch is in effect for areas in Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Man gets death sentence for starting the Old fire in 2003

Rickie Lee Fowler
Rickie Lee Fowler

A jury has recommended that Rickie Lee Fowler be sentenced to death for starting the 2003 Old fire that destroyed 1,003 homes, burned 91,000 acres, and led to five deaths. He was convicted on August 15 of two arson charges and of murdering the five people who died of heart attacks after their homes burned or while they evacuated during the fire near San Bernardino, California.

The judge in the case has the legal authority to reduce the death sentence to life in prison, but that rarely occurs in California.

In the trial, the State employed the same principle used when prosecutors in neighboring Riverside County won a death penalty conviction against Raymond Lee Oyler, an auto mechanic who set the 2006 Esperanza wildfire that killed five federal firefighters. Oyler is believed to be the first person in the U.S. to be convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in a wildland arson case.

Before the trial Mr. Fowler said he and three men in a van had intended to rob John Aylward, a person he identified as his godfather, but realized they were too drunk or stoned to pull it off. Instead, they decided to start a fire, as one person testified before a grand jury, “to burn John’s house down”.

In an interview with investigators, Mr. Fowler said he struck the flare and threw it into the vegetation, but corrected himself and said one of the other men in the van struck the flare. In a later interview, he said he intended to strike and throw the flare, but Martin Valdez Jr. took it from him, struck it, and threw it into the brush.

While in prison before the trial, Mr. Fowler was convicted of sodomizing another jail inmate and sentenced to three 25-years-to-life prison terms.

San Diego County develops disaster preparedness app for the public

San Diego County app, emergency news

The County of San Diego has developed an app that can provide the public with information about ongoing emergency incidents that may affect residents and visitors. Available for Android and Apple smart phones and devices, the “SD Emergency” app has breaking news about incidents, maps of incidents, and the locations of shelters. It also has disaster preparedness information and interactive checklists to help you to create an emergency plan and build an emergency supplies kit.

If you register the app and provide some contact information, it will send to your device push notifications of new emergencies and updates.

Every large city should have an app like this. It was released a week ago, and the best feature is…. it is free.

Man found dead in one of 11 homes destroyed in San Diego County fire

Update at 9:30 p.m. PT, September 25, 2012:

CAL FIRE revised the number of structures that were affected by the fire. Destroyed were 11 residences, 14 outbuildings and 11 vehicles, while 2 residences were damaged. The fire has burned 2,851 acres and it is 90 percent contained. Resources on the fire include 1,402 personnel, 115 engines, and 47 hand crews.


Originally published at 9:10 a.m. PT. September 25, 2012

The body of a man was found in a home that was destroyed in the Shockey fire, a 2,851-acre wildfire in eastern San Diego County. After hearing from neighbors that the man may have been in the house when the fire burned through the area, investigators examined what was left of his house and discovered his remains.

Map, Shockey Fire - September 25, 2012
Map, Shockey Fire – September 25, 2012. The yellow squares represent heat detected by satellites. Google/MODIS/Wildfire Today (click to enlarge)

Firefighters are still tallying the damage but preliminary estimates are that 20 homes were destroyed along with 10 that were damaged. About 15 outbuildings also burned.

The fire started Sunday afternoon near the Shockey Truck Trail at California Highway 94 on the Campo Indian Reservation. It spread quickly forcing the evacuations of 600 people in the communities of Boulevard and Jacumba. Most of the evacuations have been lifted but some are still in effect.

Here is a link to a map provided by CAL FIRE that shows the fire perimeter.

Tuesday morning 855 personnel, 80 engines, and 40 hand crews were assigned to the fire which is still active on the east side and is 55 percent contained, according to CAL FIRE.

The video below is a summary of the wildfire activity in California for the last week. It includes some information about the Shockey fire.