(Originally published at 11:53 a.m. PST December 5, 2017)
Two California National Guard C-130’s have been activated by the state’s Governor to assist with the wildfires in Southern California. Two large fires have burned a total of 49,000 acres since Monday afternoon — the Creek Fire at Ventura and the Thomas Fire near Sylmar.
A spokesperson for the 146th Airlift Wing said the aircraft have been activated, they are being prepared, and the Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) are being installed, but they have not yet received the launch orders.
The MAFFS, which can be installed in a C-130 in a few hours, holds up to 3,000 gallons of retardant.
With the very strong Santa Ana winds currently blowing in Southern California, it remains to be seen if it will possible, safe, or effective to use fixed wing aircraft over the fires. Air tankers have to fly low and slow, and usually over rough terrain. Strong winds can make this unsafe and the retardant can also be blown far off the target.
Very few air tankers on U.S. Forest Service contracts are still active this time of the year. Last Friday there were only four, all in southern California; two CL-415 scoopers and two MD-87’s.
The 747 SuperTanker has also been activated on a CAL FIRE Call When Needed contract and will fly from Marana, Arizona to McClellan near Sacramento today, arriving at about 3 or 4 p.m.
The scoopers are due to end their mandatory availability period on December 6, but it is possible they could be extended due to the current fire situation in southern California. In September the USFS cancelled the last four years of the 5-year contract for the scoopers. The cancellation was to take effect on December 6, 2017.
The Rey Fire continued to spread to the east on Sunday, growing by more than 4,000 acres to a total of 23,546. Almost all of the growth was on the east side where it spread for more than 2 miles but it was also active on the northeast perimeter.
The weather conditions at the fire area should be rather mild Monday, for southern California anyway. The temperature will be in the mid-80s under a mostly clear sky and the relative humidity will bottom out in the mid-20s, but the wind could be a concern. It will increase in the afternoon to 10 to 13 mph out of the northwest gusting at 16-20.
The fire is being fought by 1,260 personnel, 28 crews, 48 engines, and 2 helicopters. There are no reports of any structures that burned.
The time lapse video below of the Rey Fire is mesmerizing. It’s a case study in wildland fire behavior and fire meteorology, featuring wind shear and pyrocumulus clouds. It was shot on August 20 by Jesse Rockwell.
One of the military Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) C-130 air tankers experienced a hard landing Sunday after having a problem with the nose landing gear. Thankfully there were no injuries.
The California Channel Islands Air National Guard Station at Port Hueneme is conducting annual refresher and certification training this week for their crews that staff the C-130 aircraft used as air tankers when outfitted with the transportable Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS).
The Wyoming and North Carolina National Guard MAFFS units will train in Cheyenne, Wyoming beginning April 28, while the Colorado Springs Air Force Reserve unit will hold their training the week of May 16.
The four military units that host MAFFS crews have a total of eight C-130 aircraft that can be activated when what remains of the federal air tanker fleet is committed to going fires or initial attack.
Michigan man dies of injuries suffered while burning brush
A 70-year old man died after he was badly burned in a brush fire near Hart, Michigan on Monday, April 8. From mlive.com:
Roger D. Kludy, 70, died at the hospital, according to Oceana County Sheriff’s Lt. Craig Mast. There was little information known about the incident early Tuesday morning, Mast said. But authorities believe Kludy was burning brush on Adams Road Monday afternoon when something went awry and Kludy suffered severe burns. Michigan State Police is handling the investigation, Mast said.
South Carolina brush fire burns or damages 13 structures
A brush fire near Greer, South Carolina that started from a lit cigarette, caused damage estimated at $1.8 million on Wednesday, April 2. The fire destroyed three units in a condominium and a single family dwelling. Nine other structures were damaged.
Training residents to spot wildfires
“Woods Watch” training is being offered Friday to residents in Flagstaff, Arizona. According to the AP, in the one-hour course participants will learn how to properly report incidents that could start wildfires, such as people sneaking into closed areas and disregarding fire restrictions.
Incident Management Teams meet in Cheyenne
Incident Management Teams from the Rocky Mountain Region are holding their annual meeting in Cheyenne, Wyoming this week to review standard operating procedures, discuss new policies, and get to know each other before the wildland fire season begins. About 250 team members will attend from Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
One resident dead and 49 homes destroyed in Australian bushfire
One person collapsed and died on the roof of his house while spraying water to defend his home from a fire in the Perth hills of Western Australia on Sunday. The 62-year old man’s house was not damaged while the 650-hectare (1,606 acres) fire burned 49 others in the Shire of Mundaring. One resident tried to get back to their house on Monday afternoon and suffered burns to the hands and feet.
At least three homes burned Sunday in a large grass fire near the Kansas-Missouri border. The 600-acre fire was pushed by very strong winds which caused problems for the firefighters that responded from both Kansas and Missouri. Cherokee County officials said the fire may have been caused by a power line that failed due to the wind.
Red Flag Warnings, January 13
Areas in southern California, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas are under Fire Weather Watches and Red Flag Warnings today.
UPDATE at 6:25 p.m. PST, January 13, 2014. The Red Flag Warning areas in California have grown:
North Carolina resident Col. Charles D. Davis III will command the national military mission charged with combating wildland fires using C-130 aircraft outfitted with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System.
“MAFFS is a team effort,” said Davis, who also commands the Operations Group at the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C. “We protect lives and property from forest fires, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
As commander of the Air Expeditionary Group Wildland Fire Fighting, Davis will lead three Air National Guard and one U.S. Air Force Reserve Command units that fly military C-130 aircraft and use them as aerial tankers. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, the Group controls MAFFS operations nationwide at the direction of the U.S. Forest Service.
A U.S. Air Force master navigator with more than 5,300 hours of military flying time, Davis, of Weddington, N.C., has more than 1,000 hours of combat time earned supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In civilian life, he is an Airbus A330 Flight Crew Training Instructor at U.S. Airways.
Arizona legislators consider bills related to hotshots’ deaths
State legislators in Arizona are considering bills that are related to wildfire management and the deaths of the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The firefighters were entrapped and killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire near Yarnell, Arizona on June 30, 2013.
A bill is being considered that would allow local governments to ban the sale of certain fireworks.
Another bill seeks to clarify what autopsy documents and photos are available to the public. County authorities refused to release autopsy reports for the Yarnell Hill firefighters.
Some legislators want the state to buy the state trust land where the hotshots died so it can be preserved as a memorial.
Legislators are considering helping the city of Prescott with its costs related to the hotshots’ deaths, but they may wait until the 100+ claims and/or lawsuits are settled before proposing anything specific.
They may propose legislation that would at least provide life insurance for public safety workers.
The legislation that enabled the transfer of seven C-130H aircraft from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service to serve as air tankers required that the wing boxes be replaced and other maintenance be performed.