Saskatchewan replacing fire lookouts with cameras

Saskatchewan lookout tower
Saskatchewan lookout tower. CTV News

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment is phasing out fire lookout towers staffed with humans to detect fires and replacing them with cameras.

About 38 seasonal positions will be lost when the government switches to camera systems. The provincial government says the installation of the equipment, which should be operational by April of 2014,  will cost $1.5 million.

Environment Minister Ken Cheveldayoff says the switch will save money. However, he maintains the primary issue is safety.

“These towers are 80 to 90 feet high,” Cheveldayoff said Thursday. “There’s a safety issue if they’re single-manned that if something was to happen, if that individual was able to slip or something like that, it could be dire consequences.”

Saskatchewan lookout tower
Saskatchewan lookout tower. Photo by Government of Saskatchewan.

Looking back at the 2003 Kelowna wildfire

Even though I stayed overnight in Kelowna, British Columbia on a motorcycle trip last August, I was not aware of the nearby devastating Okanagan Mountain Park (map) wildfire in 2003 that destroyed hundreds of homes and threatened the lives of firefighters. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Kelowna Capital News:

During the 2003 Kelowna wildfire, a group of firefighters trapped in Kettle Valley were surrounded by 400 foot high flames, took shelter under fire trucks, and called home from their cell phones to say goodbye to their families.

“They couldn’t get out,” recalled former Kelowna fire chief and current city councillor Gerry Zimmermann as he welcomed more than 200 colleagues from around North America to the three-day Western Wildfire Conference in Kelowna Thursday morning.

But, everyone survived the Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire, even though 30,000 people were evacuated, 239 homes were lost in two nights and 60,000 acres were burned across the south slopes, 10 years ago this summer…

Fire danger sign near Canmore, Alberta. Photo by Bill Gabbert
Fire danger sign near Canmore, Alberta. Photo by Bill Gabbert

Wildfire briefing, December 3, 2012

Firefighter killed in Clinton County, Illinois

A firefighter was killed Sunday at the scene of a wildfire that spread to a structure. Here is an excerpt from an article at KSDK:

A 45-year-old fireman with the Santa Fe Fire Protection District in Clinton County, Illinois, has been killed at the scene of a fire.

Timothy P. Jansen died of injuries sustained when he was struck by a fire truck in the 9700 block of River Road in Bartelso. The accident happened about 7:45 p.m. Sunday.

Jansen was among the first firefighters to arrive at the scene, which began as a grass fire and spread to a building.

Santa Fe Fire Chief Adam Maue said Jansen was standing on the back of a truck, pulling hoses, when he slipped off. The driver of the truck told the chief he did not know Jansen fell, so he backed up, striking Jansen.

Jansen was married and had two daughters. He’d been with the fire district for 15 years and owned a restaurant directly across the street from the firehouse.

Fire engine overturns en route to wildfire, injuring 4

A fire engine that was participating in a Christmas parade in Bedford, Virginia was dispatched to a wildland fire duirng the parade but didn’t make it to the fire. It overturned while rounding a curve, landing in Phyllis Carimi’s front yard.

Here is an excerpt from The News & Advance:

Lt. Todd Foreman, of the Bedford City Police, said he believed there were only four men inside the truck, all of whom were hospitalized.

Foreman said two were airlifted from the wreck — one to Lynchburg General Hospital, the other to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The other two were taken by ambulance to Lynchburg and Bedford hospitals.

Their conditions and identities have not yet been provided.

Chief of the Forest Service expects 12 million to 15 million acres to burn annually due to higher temperatures

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told a group in Boise Friday that in the future even more acres are going to burn and the cost of fighting fires will continue to rise. One of his answers to the problem, of course, is to increase timber sales by 20 percent.

As we pointed out November 23, so far this year the number of acres burned, 9,093,431, was the third highest total since national wildfire statistics have been kept beginning in 1960. Remaining at the number one and two spots are 2006 with 9.9 million, and 2007 with 9.3 million.

Rocky Barker wrote in the Idaho Statesman on Saturday:

Tidwell told the City Club of Boise that as many as 12 million to 15 million acres will burn annually now because of warming temperatures and drier years.

[…]

More than 30,000 homes have burned in the past decade, Tidwell said, including 3,000 just this year — homes in a Pocatello subdivision among them. Experts expect fires to keep claiming houses, but fuel-reduction steps can make communities safer and easier to protect, Tidwell said.

Federal budget cuts will make money more scarce, but communities are increasingly taking responsibility, he said. Flagstaff, Ariz., passed a $10 million bond to do forest restoration on private and federal land there.

The comments people have left at the bottom of the Idaho Statesman article are interesting.

Canadian Commission rejects changes to codes to protect communities

From the Edmonton Journal:

EDMONTON – A federal commission has rejected proposals to change Canada’s national construction codes to better protect communities from destructive wildfires.

The changes would have required builders in areas prone to forest fires to use less flammable building materials, to space buildings farther apart and to keep them clear of trees and vegetation.

[…]

The proposal for changes came from the National Fire Protection Association and an Alberta-based non-profit group called Partners in Protection.

The proposals were submitted to the commission before wildfires in May 2011 destroyed hundreds of homes in Slave Lake, Alta., and forced thousands of people to flee. The disaster cost more than $1 billion in damage, firefighting and relief costs.

Air tankers still on active duty

Two large air tankers are still on active duty, long past their normal mandatory availability periods. More information at FireAviation.com 

 

Thanks go out to Dick

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

Australians lease 5 air tankers from Canadian company

CV-580
Conair’s fleet of CV-580 air tankers

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) in the Australian state of Victoria is leasing five air tankers and one “bird dog” aircraft from a Canadian company for the down under summer fire season. Two CV-580 air tankers, three single engine Air Tractor 802’s, and a Turbo Commander 690 bird dog are being provided by Conair in what the CFA is considering a trial of the larger air tankers.

CV-580 capacity
Capacity of the CV-580

The CV-580 has been used in Canada for a decade, but this is believed to be the first time they have seen action in Australia. The aircraft can carry up to 2,100 U.S. gallons and has a top speed of 310 mph.

A group of Canadian pilots and mechanics flew across the Pacific with the planes in early December, stopping to refuel at several islands along the way. The aircraft will be based at Avalon, Victoria (map) for the fire season.

The Canadian air tankers will join the three Erickson Air-Crane helicopters, Elvis, Elsie, and Marty, which are also leased for the next several months.

This video shows the CFA testing the CV-580’s at the Avalon Airfield in early February, 2011.

The video below, posted on YouTube in 2007, shows CV-580’s in action, dropping on numerous fires in British Columbia.

In what we called the “Siege of ’08”, four CV-580’s were sent from Canada to assist with the hundreds of wildfires that were started by a massive lighting barrage in northern California.

A CV-580 operated by Conair crashed in central British Columbia on July 31, 2010, killing the two pilots.

While we’re on the subject of air tankers, the richard-seaman.com web site has dozens of excellent photos of mostly amphibious aircraft that were taken at an air show in 2006, the Gidroaviasalon (“hydro-aviation exhibition”) held at the Beriev test center near Gelendzhik on the Russian Black Sea. Here is a very impressive photo of the two Russian-made amphibious air tankers flying in formation. The upper one is the Be-200, and the other is the A-42 Albatross. The site also has several other photos of these two air tankers operating at the air show.

a-42 Be-200
A-42 “Albatross” (lower aircraft) and the Be-200 (upper aircraft). Photo: Richard-Seaman.com