Fire helicopter struck by lightning in Idaho

From the AP, via

MCCALL, Idaho  -Four people were injured when lightning struck a firefighting helicopter in central Idaho while it was on the ground.

None of the employees of Siller Brothers, Inc., a contract firefighting company, suffered life-threatening injuries in Tuesday evening’s incident, but they were transported to hospitals in the region for treatment.

The Sikorsky S64E Air-Crane helicopter was on a national contract with the Payette National Forest to help fight forest fires in the region.

The incident Tuesday night at about 8:45 a.m. took place just as the four crew members were doing end-of-day maintenance.

They were tying the chopper down as high winds hit the area following heavy rain and lightning.

Damage to the aircraft is still being surveyed.


Mann Gulch fire–60 years ago

On August 5, 1949 on the Helena National Forest, a wildfire entrapped 15 smokejumpers and a fire guard in Mann Gulch. Before it was controlled the fire took the lives of 13 men and burned nearly 5,000 acres.

The fatalities:

  • Robert J. Bennett
  • Eldon E. Diettert
  • James O. Harrison
  • William J. Hellman
  • Philip R. McVey
  • David R. Navon
  • Leonard L. Piper
  • Stanley J. Reba
  • Marvin L. Sherman
  • Joseph B. Sylvia
  • Henry J. Thol, Jr.
  • Newton R. Thompson
  • Silas R. Thompson
The 13 men who were killed in the Mann Gulch fire. U. S. Forest Service photo.

The story of this fire was told by Norman Maclean in his book “Young Men and Fire“.

The Six Minutes for Safety overview of the fire is HERE.

As Wildfire Today reported earlier, on August 2-5, 2009 the Helena National Forest along with the National Smokejumpers Association will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Mann Gulch fire at the Meriwether picnic area through informal interpretive programs highlighting the Mann Gulch Fire, impacts the Mann Gulch tragedy has had on firefighting techniques and smokejumping and the associated equipment.

Three smokejumpers—John McKinnon, Carl Gidland and Roland Anderson—will at the Meriwether picnic area to speak to people about Mann Gulch, current and historic fire fighting techniques and much more.

Here is a photo of Mann Gulch taken in 2008, from The Travels of John and Breya.

747 Supertanker drops on Alaska fire

The 747 air tanker made two free drops on the Railbelt complex in Alaska on Friday. Evergreen, who built and operates the “Supertanker”, made the drops at no cost to Fairbanks Area Forestry in an effort to demonstrate the capabilities of the aircraft. They made two drops, dispensing a total of 20,000 gallons of retardant.

This was the first time the aircraft has dropped on a live fire in North America. Last week they made a similar demonstration drop on a fire in Spain, which was the first time they had dropped on an actual fire.

In spite of the 747 drops, the Railbelt complex grew by 67,000 acres on Friday, for a new total of 443,447 burned acres.

Smokejumpers, hand crews, and hot shot crews are protecting 226 cabins that are threatened along the Tanana, Teklanika, Toklat and Kantishna Rivers. On Friday smokejumpers delivered an all terrain vehicle by paracargo to a crew at Totek Lake.

Smoke from fires in Alaska on Friday caused two Northwest Airlines flights scheduled to land in Fairbanks to be diverted to Anchorage.