Wildfire briefing, September 17, 2012

MAFFS cockpit

US Forest Service deactivates the last two MAFFS air tankers

MAFFS cockpit
From the cockpit of a MAFFS C-130, Lt. Col. William Wilson (left) and Maj. Matthew Ringlein (right) of the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands, Calif., prepare to drop retardant on a wildfire in northern California, August 24, 2012. Photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz.

The US Forest Service has released from fire duty the last two Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped military C-130s. At one time this summer all eight were active, which was the first time since 2008 eight C-130s had been activated simultaneously.

According to 153rd Air Expeditionary Group officials based in Boise, Idaho, this season has become the second-highest in MAFFS history for gallons of fire retardant dropped, surpassed only by the MAFFS season of 1994 when about 5 million gallons were dropped. This season, through Sept. 14, the MAFFS fleet released almost 2.5 million gallons of fire retardant during 1,011 drops on fires in 10 states.

Awards presented for actions following the crash of MAFFS air tanker

MAFFS 7 awards
Firefighters Daniel Diaz (center), Kevin Walters (left), and pilot Chuck MacFarland (right) receive their awards for their actions following the crash of MAFFS 7. Photo credit: San Bernardino National Forest

One of the MAFFS C-130s mentioned above, MAFFS 7, crashed on July 1 while working on the White Draw Fire west of Hot Springs, South Dakota, killing four people and injuring two. Recently awards were presented to at least three helitack crew members honoring them for their efforts in the rescue and recovery of the crew members of the C-130. Awards were given to Firefighters Daniel Diaz, Kevin Walters, and pilot Chuck MacFarland from the San Bernardino National Forest. There may also have been awards given to other firefighters that were involved in the incident.

Helicopter 535 from Keenwild Station on the San Bernardino National Forest and a helicopter from Wasatch, which were both assigned to the White Draw Fire, responded to the crash and effected the rescue of the two surviving crew members and initiated the search for the deceased. Media reports at the time said the two survivors were picked up by helicopter from the crash site and flown to the Custer airport approximately 25 miles north of the fire. From there one was flown by a life flight helicopter to a hospital in Rapid City and the other went by ground ambulance to the hospital.

Below is a photo that we shot on June 29 of Helicopter 535 dropping on the White Draw Fire two days before the crash of MAFFS 7.

H-535 dropping on White Draw Fire
H-535 dropping on the White Draw Fire, June 29, 2012. Photo by Bill Gabbert


Canadian firefighters helping out in United States

More than 100 firefighers from Canada will be helping to suppress wildfires in the state of Washington. They were expected to arrive on Monday, September 17 to assist the 3,500 firefighters currently working on fires in Washington and Oregon.

Report examines residential wildfire risk in 13 states

The CoreLogic company has released an interesting report that analyzes the residential wildfire risk in 13 states. One fact they point out is that living within a city boundary does not prevent a wildfire from reaching a home, since all it takes is one burning ember that could be transported for thousands of feet before it lands in a gutter full of leaves at an otherwise well-maintained home.

The graphic below from the report was news to me… that in the previous five decades there has been such a significant increase in homes destroyed in wildfires.

Structures destroyed by decade CoreLogic and Blue Ribbon Panel on WUI
Structures destroyed by decade CoreLogic and Blue Ribbon Panel on WUI

USFS Deputy Chief says they do not have enough firefighting resources 

In spite of the annual spring press releases that claim there will plenty of firefighting resources for upcoming season, Jim Hubbard, the US Forest Service Deputy Chief, is quoted in an article in the San Francisco Examiner as saying the agency does not have enough resources to cover long-duration wildfires. This was the reason given for their policy this summer of full suppression of all fires, rather than letting some fires burn through remote areas for weeks or months with only minimum intervention by firefighters.

Air tanker videos from Canada

Josh sent us these videos of air tankers in action in Canada, saying:

The aircraft models in both videos were a mix of the L188 Electra (the quad) and a couple of AT802’s (SEAT). The yellow Electra is Airspray of Edmonton AB (they have 3 on exclusive use with the BCFS), the rest are Conair’s (Abbotsford BC). They also provide several CV580’s (not in these videos) along with one Electra and a group of 802’s.


Thanks go out to Ken, Kelly, and Dick

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “Wildfire briefing, September 17, 2012”

  1. OK OK

    Since there are plenty o LMA types here who will chirp and and say “how much they appreciate the USAF and its mission….” and clearly they have not spoken up EVEN though it has been a very busy fire season…

    Here it is from a former UH1 Huey and UH60 mech / crewchief and a former HECM and TOLC back in the day……

    Thanks USAF guys…without you folks that impressive 9 to 12 airtankers we have now, currently…. you boyz and girlzzzz from the USAF have done a fine service to the country and without your service and the folks at Tanker10LLC who did my State a significant service…….the USFS could NOT have done its mission without you folks. It was said in Nov 2011 that there were enough resources to cover the 2012 fire season, that may have included the MAFFS crews and Tanker10LLC…who knows?

    BUT since the LMA types are not signing in here….. I will represent my 15-20 yrs a wildland firefighter and 20 plus years as an aircraft mech and civilian pilot…to identify those who greatly assisted the folks in Nomex.

    Thanks USAF and 10 Tanker10LLC for a job WELLL DONE so far this year!!


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