Washington DC metro train drives through fire

Riders on a Washington D.C. Metro train had a commute on March 19 that was less boring than usual when their train drove through or adjacent to a vegetation fire. It is interesting that the train stopped right next to the fire. Maybe firefighters had equipment or hoses on the track. Here is how it was described by the person that shot the video:

I saw smoke from another train station; once I knew that our train would be passing right by it; I started recording…I didn’t know the fire went from going by, to going under.

One of the first places the video appeared was on Unsuck DC Metro, where one commenter had this to say:

I was there! On that train. I wondered why we were driving through flames but not much I could do about it. Flames on both sides – first “stage right” on the right outside edge, which is what that video appears to show and then just as we passed by, more flames on the left in the middle of the track area.

Only human was one fellow off to “stage-right” of the train outside of the fence with a hoe. He was slowly and barely pushing flaming bits back through a hole in the fence. NO other human around!

The entire car went “whoa!” and watched as we flamed by the flames.

BAe 146-200 air tanker conversion

BAe-146 air tanker
BAe-146-200 makes its first drop on October 28, 2009. Tronos photo.

I’m not sure how we missed this before, but on October 28, 2009 the BAe-146-200 that is being converted to an air tanker by Tronos made its first drop over Prince Edward Island in Canada. According to the company “The aircraft performed flawlessly as did the tank and delivery system.”

Here are some stats about the aircraft, taken from the Tronos web site:

  • Water / retardant capacity: 3,000 USG
  • Range: 2,700km / 1,200 nm
  • Turn-around time: 8 minutes
  • Typical drop speed / altitude: 120 knots (138 mph) @ 150 feet (200km/h (124 mph) @ 46 meters)
  • Cruise speed: 330 knots (600 km/h) (380 mph)
  • Fast fill / Variable flow delivery system
  • Short take-off length and steep field approach
  • Air-brake / flap combination: improves low speed maneouvrability

The aircraft Tronos is converting is number N608AW, serial number E2049, manufactured in 1986.


In a comment, Ken mentioned the fact that Minden Air, at Minden, Nevada, is also converting a BAe 146-200 into an air tanker. In 2004 and 2005 Minden and Tronos were talking about working together to convert a BAe-146-200 into an air tanker, but that project fizzled out. Minden acquired one, number N606AW, serial number 2033, but now it has been turned into scrap at Minden.

N606aw scrapped
N606AW scrapped at Minden Air

The company did some low-level flight testing in 2004 with a BAe 146-200, flying a total of nine sorties with the aircraft configured much like an air tanker.

BAe-146 air tanker test
Minden’s low-level flight test of a BAe-146-200 in 2004.

But in January, 2009 Minden acquired another BAe-146-200, number N446MA, serial number E2111, manufactured in 1989. Minden intends to have this aircraft converted into an air tanker for the 2010 fire season. Some of the approvals they will have to get include a Supplemental Type Certificate from the FAA, and certification from the Interagency Air Tanker Board. BAE Systems, the manufacturer of the aircraft, is consulting with Minden, and will stand by any design and technical contributions they are asked to make. BAE Systems hopes the conversion will be successful so that a new market for their aircraft can be created.

Here are a couple of interesting facts about the BAe-146.

  • In spite of the fact that it has four turbofan engines, it is one of the quietest jet airliners, producing only 80 decibels when taking off.  This meant that in the 1980’s and 1990’s, before other manufacturers reduced the noise from their aircraft, the BAe-146 could land and takeoff at noise-restricted airports when others could not, or at certain times, such as late at night, when others couldn’t.
  • Some of the earliest BAe-146’s had problems with the engines, resulting in the joke that BAe stood for “Bring Another engine”.

Knife vs rotor blade

Here is the text of an Interagency Aviation Safety Alert that was issued on March 23, 2010 by the U.S. Forest Service. It describes damage to a helicopter rotor blade when someone attempted to throw a knife from inside the helicopter to someone standing nearby.  Click on it to see a larger version.
knife into helicopter rotor blade

The safety alert goes on to explain that a similar incident happened a few years ago when a second rocket scientist did the same thing with a set of keys. The document ends with this:


Preliminary fire season outlook for Northern Rockies

They emphasize it is not the official outlook, but The Northern Rockies region has posted a “Preliminary Fire Season 2010 Outlook”. When you click on the link, it starts a narrated presentation.

Here are a couple of screen grabs.

Snow pack

Fire Season Outlook 2010
Three-month outlook for temperature on the left, and precipitation on the right. Created March 18. Click for a larger view.

Thanks Chuck

Russian air tanker may visit Santa Maria

BE-200 air tanker
A Berieve Be-200 amphibious air tanker scoops water in a demonstration.

An entrepreneur in Santa Maria, California is promising for a second time that a Russian-made amphibious air tanker will appear at the Santa Maria airport for a demonstration. As Wildfire Today reported last August, David Baskett, a Santa Maria businessman and founder of the now defunct Pacific Skyway airline, has been working with the Russian government to bring the plane to the United States. Mr. Baskett envisions the air tanker, also known as Altair, replacing the aging air tankers presently being used that have an average age of 50.

In August Mr. Baskett announced the Be-200 air tanker would be at Santa Maria on September 26 for a demonstration and a month-long visit, but it never showed up. Baskett later blamed “bureaucracy” as the reason, since the approval of the U.S. government is required before it arrives. Now Baskett is saying the Be-200 will arrive at the Santa Maria Public Airport (SMX) on April 7 April 10 for a week-long visit and a demonstration, and possibly scooping water out of Lake Cachuma, if permission can be obtained.

On Wednesday, the ship cleared customs in Anchorage and was on its way to visit several countries in South America before it re-enters the United States in Miami. When it arrives at Santa Maria the plans are for it to park in front of the Radisson Hotel which is adjacent to the airport ramp.

A Be-200 air tanker, if I did the conversions correctly, can carry up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant. It also can carry foam concentrate which can be mixed with the water in the tank. The amphibious plane has scoops on the bottom much like the amphibious CL-415 making it possible to skim across a body of water to refill its tank. The Be-200, powered by two turbofan engines mounted above the wings to avoid water spray, can also land on a runway to refill with retardant. It has a maximum cruise speed of 435 mph, an economic cruise speed of 348 mph, and a minimum drop speed of 124 mph.

The Be-200 made its first flight in 2003.

Baskett envisions purchasing 10 of the Be-200’s, and then leasing them to air tanker operators.

Santa Maria has had an air tanker base for a long time, but a year or so ago it was downgraded from a fully functional base to a call when needed base, only open if air tankers were working a fire nearby. Wildfire Today has written about that issue previously.

Here is a link to some YouTube videos of the Be-200.

A web site has been established for the Santa Maria visit.

Pine beetle fear

There is a lot of hysteria out there in response to the pine beetle  outbreak that has affected at least 5 million acres in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and South Dakota, and even more acres in British Columbia, which has been called ground zero for the beetles. Some people are suggesting that beetle-killed trees will inevitably lead to catastrophic wildfires and that massive logging or insecticide-spraying operations must begin in order to protect our citizens. But the science does not support that school of thought.

Beetle-killed trees can be more flammable during the relatively short period of time when the needles on the pine trees have been killed and have turned red, but after the needles fall to the ground the dead trees are less likely to support a crown fire than a live forest.

Here is an excerpt from an article by George Wuerthner that appeared today at HelenaIR.com. The entire article is here.


The current pine beetle “outbreak” that has led to tree mortality among Rocky Mountain forests has prompted some people to suggest that beetles are “destroying” our forests and that beetle-killed trees will invariably lead to larger wildfires.

At the heart of this issue are flawed assumptions about wildfires, what constitutes a healthy forest and the options available to humans in face of natural processes that are inconvenient and get in the way of our designs.

While it may seem intuitive that dead trees will lead to more fires, there is little scientific evidence to support the contention that beetle-killed trees substantially increase risk of large blazes. In fact, there is evidence to suggest otherwise.

Bark beetles tend to focus on larger trees, and not all trees are killed. This has important implications for fire risk. Fine fuels — not large snags — are the prime ingredient for sustained fire. After a major beetle outbreak, and once the red needles and small branches have broken off the trees, all that remains are upright big boles that do not burn particularly well.

To sustain a blaze among a snag forest you usually need fine fuels to maintain the heating process. That is why one uses small kindling and other fine fuels to start a campfire, and must continuously feed small wood and/or a sufficient bed of coals under the bigger logs to keep the fire going.

Ultimately, fuels do not control fires. If the climate/weather isn’t conducive for fire spread, it doesn’t much matter how much dead wood you have piled up, you won’t get a large fire. As an extreme example, think of all the dead wood lying around on the ground in old-growth West Coast rainforests — tons of fuel, but few fires — because it’s too wet to burn.

Large blazes are driven by a combination of extreme drought, low humidity, high temperatures and, most importantly, wind. These conditions do not occur in the same place at the same time very frequently — which is why there are often decades to centuries between major blazes and most fires go out without burning more than a few acres.

In the Rockies between 1980 and 2003, there were more than 56,000 fires that charred 9 million acres. But 96 percent of the fires — more than 55,000 of those blazes — charred less than 4 percent of the total acreage burned; the climatic conditions just weren’t conducive to fire spread, even though fuels were abundant. By contrast, less than 0.1 percent of the fires during that period were responsible for more than half of the acreage burned.

Even more surprising is that a forest dominated by bug-killed snags may be less vulnerable to a blaze than a green forest. Just as a recently burned forest often acts as a fire break due to limited fine fuels, bug-killed trees affect fire spread in much the same way. In fact, green trees stressed by drought can have internal moisture levels drop lower than kiln dried lumber, but because they still possess flammable resin-filled needles and small branches that burn almost explosively, green trees are sometimes more flammable than dead trees.

Even more importantly, bark beetles are increasingly recognized by ecologists as “ecosystem engineers,” much as beavers are now recognized as important to the creation of wetlands and riparian areas. Beetles are essential to maintaining biodiversity and healthy forests.


Read the rest of the article here.

George Wuerthner is an ecologist, writer and photographer with 34 published books, including “Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy.”

Thanks Dick