747 Supertanker’s world tour

Evergreen continues their road trip, uh, air trip, with the 20,000-gallon 747 air tanker they call a “Supertanker”. On July 10 they were in Sacramento. Last week they were in France, Germany, and Spain where they made their first ever drop on a real fire during a demonstration in Spain. And on Tuesday they were in Edmonton, Canada and Fairbanks, Alaska.

The company will donate the services of the 747 today, making a drop on the Railbelt Complex of fires, which has burned 340,000 acres 12 miles northwest of Nenana, Alaska. This will be the first drop on a real fire in the United States for the aircraft.

Sam White of Evergreen points out the four nozzles that dispense retardant. Photos by Eric Engman
The pressurized retardant tanks on the 747 Supertanker. The retardant is forced out by compressed air, much like on the MAFF C-130 air tankers.

And speaking of very large air tankers (VLAT), in a cost-saving move, CalFire recently downgraded their exclusive use agreement for one of the DC-10 air tankers (tanker 910) to a Call When Needed (CWN) agreement, meaning they will only pay for the air tanker when and if they use it. They still have CWN agreements for the second DC-10 operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, Tanker 911 and the 747 air tanker.

The U.S. Forest Service issued a solicitation for VLAT’s on June 25. We have not heard if they have awarded any contracts through this process.

Lessons learned from the Redrock-Trailer1 fire norovirus incident

Dozens of people became sick at the Redrock and Trailer 1 fires 25 miles north of Reno, Nevada around July 19. Tests on some of them revealed that they had been infected with the Norovirus. The Medical Unit Leaders, Chris Graves and Diana Ludwig (trainee) prepared a lessons learned document, which is now on our Documents page, titled “Redrock-Trailer fires: Norovirus Lessons Learned”.


Report issued on firefighter burned during pump operations in Alaska

The Alaska Division of Forestry has issued a Factual Report about the accident on July 9th in which Todd Wanner of the Idaho City Hot Shots received burns while working around a portable pump. The full report is on our Documents page, but here are some excerpts:


At approximately 1857 hours (ADST) on July 9th, 2009 while supporting a water pumping operation, a member of the Idaho City IHC was burned while working on the Logging Slash Fire in interior Alaska. The Idaho City IHC Crew Member was assigned the operation of a Mark 3 pump to support a water pumping function utilizing a folda-tank and Mark 3 pump. During a routine check of the fuel supply the crew member opened the Jerry can (fuel tank); flammable liquid and vapors spewed from the container and were ignited. The resulting flash fire burned the crew member. Investigation reveals the jerry can, during set-up of the pump, was placed in close proximity to the Mark 3 exhaust (muffler). During the interval that the pump was running the exhaust did impinge upon the jerry can preheating the gasoline. Upon opening the bung of the jerry can; volatile gasoline vapors and liquid escaped and were ignited by the muffler/hot components of the Mark 3 pump. Portable fire extinguishers were used to extinguish the fuel can, pump and other burning objects that had been ignited by the flash fire.

A designated medivac helicopter from an adjacent fire was dispatched while medical personnel on scene began treatment of the injured crew member and prepared him for transport. The injured crew member was rapidly transported to a Fairbanks hospital and after an evaluation by physicians, was then transferred to a Seattle burn center. The crew member spent several days in the intensive care unit of the burn center where his condition rapidly improved and was released from the hospital on 07/22/2009. He continues to convalesce and is expected to make a full recovery.

Causal Factors and Findings

  • Placement of the jerry can in close proximity to Mark 3 muffler and in an angled alignment with the exhaust.
  • Size/shape of fuel containment dyke may have been a contributing factor in the placement of the jerry can next to the muffler. The investigation team recommends additional research regarding whether the fuel containment dyke does readily lend itself to safe and practical set-up / operation while adhering to containment standards.
  • Briefing IC-IHC received regarding very strict spill prevention and reporting may have been interpreted to include all incidents.


  • Educate all wildland suppression agencies and organizations of the Burn Injury Criteria that is present in Chapter 7 of the 2009 Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations.
  • Update NWCG S-211 course to include more information regarding the proper use of spill containment devices and importance of keeping the jerry can away from muffler side of pumps
  • Place a label near fuel line port of jerry can stating “Do Not Place Can Near Exhaust”
  • All training should emphasize the proper use of PPE including eye and hand protection during all fueling operations
  • All training should address the utilization of Crew Resource Management during any emergency
  • All wildland fire suppression organizations/agencies should develop a “Safety Gram” to emphasize the dangers of placing fuel containers too close to mufflers or other sources of ignition

A slide from the S-211 pumps course. Note the placement of the fuel can next to the pump.

Dozer operator killed on Spanish fire

A bulldozer operator was killed on a fire in Spain on Wednesday. The accident was described this way by Earth Times:

Avila, Spain – Wildfires in Spain claimed their eleventh fatality this year when a man helping to fight one of the fires was killed near Avila northwest of Madrid on Wednesday, officials said. The man was hit by a bulldozer which he had been using with a companion after getting out of the vehicle.

Typically Spanish had this account:

Eight people have now lost their lives in the forest fires which have been blazing across the country this month, with the death in Ávila on Wednesday of a bulldozer driver sent by the Madrid Region to assist the fire-fighting operation in the south of the province. He is named by Europa Press as 40 year old Juan Carlos Rodríguez Matabuena, and is understood to have died shortly before 8am when he was run over by his own vehicle.

He became the second person to have died in the blaze in the Valle del Tiétar in the space of 24 hours, after the death on Tuesday of a 63 year old retired teacher, Javier Heras Artero, who was trapped in his home by the flames in the area known as Las Majadas.

A missing woman who was also feared to have died was later found safe and sound.