China to build amphibious air tanker


China has started the development of a large, four-turboprop aircraft that is intended to be used as an air tanker as well as a platform for long-range air-sea rescues and anti-submarine missions. Named JL-600, the aircraft will be about the size of an Airbus 320 and is scheduled to be flight tested in 2013 and ready for mass production in 2015.

JL-600 Chinese amphibious air tanker
Concept, for JL-600 Chinese amphibious air tanker

It will be able to take off on land or water and is expected to hold about 3,000 gallons of water or up to 50 passengers. Supposedly, it will be able to take off with waves up to three meters high. Its maximum speed will be about 348 mph and a range of of 3,200 miles. It will be a “scooper” and can be refilled in 20 seconds while skimming along on the surface of a lake.

One statement at was interesting:

As it flies at a height of 30 to 50 m over the treetops, the success rate of spreading water over a fire could reach 98 percent.

Railroad charged with felonies for starting fires in Michigan

According to Paul Kollmeyer of the DNR, the Grayling fire was one of few capable of jumping a 4-lane highway and median. This photo depicts the fire as it continues its charge toward Grayling. It also shows the fire has already jumped across I-75. DNR photo.
According to Paul Kollmeyer of the DNR, the Grayling fire was one of a few fires that were capable of jumping a 4-lane highway and median. This photo shows the fire as it spread toward Grayling after it jumped across I-75. DNR photo.


Lake State Railway is facing criminal charges for allegedly starting the 2008 fire that torched some 1,300 acres of forest, several homes and other buildings in Grayling.

The railroad company is also accused of starting another fire in Arenac County. Attorney General Mike Cox believes both fires were started by a train engine that threw burning embers from the exhaust system because it was not equipped with standard safety equipment called spark arresters.

Lake State is charged with two felony counts of setting fire to a forest land and two misdemeanor counts of operating an engine without spark arresters.

If found guilty, a court could order the railroad company to pay fines and full restitution, including property damage and response costs. The Grayling fire resulted in an estimated $464,000 in timber damage, $370,000 in personal property damage and $100,000 in fire suppression costs.

In a press release, the Attorney General said the railroad “knowingly operated an unsafe train engine” without functioning spark arrestors. In addition, “When a company ignores standard safety practices and threatens not only the environment but human lives, we will hold them accountable.”

Too often railroads get away with felonies, including murder or manslaughter, for starting fires, because the responsible agencies fail to adequately investigate the cause and origin of railroad-caused fires….and because law enforcement agencies fail to file charges when a case can be proven. Congratulations to Michigan’s Attorney General Mike Cox for having the courage to pursue these cases in Michigan.

As we reported on November 5, 2009, a television station found that over the last decade 234 fires in Washington were attributed to railroads. Houses burned and one person was killed, but no citations or criminal charges were issued. Zero for 234. Not a very good batting average for the fire agencies and Washington’s Attorney General Robert McKenna, who has been in that position since January, 2005. At the very top of the Attorney General’s web page is this:

The Attorney General’s Office makes a difference every day for the people of Washington.

Sometimes the difference is positive, and sometimes, not so much.

Video of the original 13 Situations That Shout “Watch Out” took our images of the original 13 Situations that Shout “Watch Out” and embedded them into a one-minute video. It’s very cool, and something I would never have thought of doing.

Here is more information about the development of these images.

The El Cariso Hot Shots (Cleveland National Forest in southern California), from about 1972-1973, developed the first curriculum for basic wildland firefighter training. It was then referred to informally as the “basic 32-hour course”, and eventually evolved into S-130/190. Originally it was a slide-tape program with an integrated instructor’s guide, tests, and a student workbook, and was later converted to VHS video tape. The course included sections on the 13 Situations That Shout “Watch Out” and the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders. I was on the crew from 1970-1972.

A black and white version of the 13 Situations graphics, each on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper, was available to us before we developed the training package. They were sent to us through USFS channels–I don’t know who the artist was. We had an artist on the crew who developed from scratch a lot of the graphics in the basic 32-hour slide-tape program, but all he and we did regarding the 13 Situations graphics was to enhance them a bit and colorize them. Then Tom Sadowski photographed them and the other graphics for the program and made slides. Tom and I and others also took the rest of the photographs that were in the basic 32-hour course.

I have copies of some of the slides from that slide-tape program, and a year ago I had about 700 old slides and prints digitized, and among them were the 13 Situation images.

The original and the enhanced images were developed by the U. S. Forest Service. They are in the public domain, therefore they may be used for training purposes. If you do use them, we would appreciate your letting us know, as Ramblings did.

Here are some photos of the basic 32-hour program being devleoped.

Rick Bondar and Tom Sadowski working on the basic 32-hour wildland firefighter training package, 1972
Rick Bondar and Tom Sadowski working on the basic 32-hour wildland firefighter training package, 1972

Making professional-quality graphics in 1972 was much more time-consuming than it is today. Sometimes we used peel-and-stick letters and hand-drawn art. It is very difficult to photograph graphics, getting everything square and perpendicular to the lens to prevent distortion. Once it was photographed, that was it. There was no photo editing, or straightening, cropping, or changing the lighting or correcting the spelling.

Tom Sadowski working on the basic 32-hour wildland firefighter training package, 1972
Tom Sadowski working on the basic 32-hour wildland firefighter training package, 1972

Catching wildfire arsonists

Miller-McCune has released the fourth in their series of five articles about the latest advances in managing wildland fires.


These are really well-done articles and are worth reading. Here is how the latest one, Part IV, about wildfire arsonists, begins:

Sixty-year-old grandmother Charmian Glassman, aka Ma Sparker, started 11 separate fires at Northern California’s Mt. Shasta in 1995, setting each within 10 feet of where she stopped her new Buick at the side of a winding woodsy road.

Her motive? To give her forest firefighter son enough fires to fight to prove himself a hero.

Consultant Paul Steensland, a veteran fire investigator and retired U.S. Forest Service senior special agent, frequently mentions this case when lecturing fire investigators. It’s a cautionary tale about getting too deeply invested in “profiles” of arsonists derived from the analysis of past offenders.

Although every arson case is different, these profiles — the most notable generated by research conducted by the FBI and the South Carolina Forestry Service in the mid-1990s — are markedly similar: Caucasian males in their teens or 20s, unemployed or marginally employed, blue-collar background, living alone or with parents. The profiles’ acceptance is why, even as officers were desperately searching for their arsonist on Mt. Shasta, Charmian Glassman managed to set a couple of fires right under their noses.

“She literally lit two fires within less than 50 feet of where officers were in the brush,” Steensland recalled, “because they just saw her pull by and could see her in her car and said, ‘She’s a grandmother.’ They had been conditioned to look for young white males.”

Thanks Dick

Type 1 and 2 IMTeams to evaluate USFA Type 3 IMTeams in pilot program

In an unusual development, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group has announced a new pilot program in which Type 1 and Type 2 Incident Management Teams will evaluate and mentor the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA) Type 3 All-Hazard Incident Management Teams. The intent of the pilot program will be to provide recommendations on the possible integration of all-hazard resources in support of wildland fire incidents.

The USFA is responsible for the Type 3 All-Hazard Technical Assistance Program and has developed Basic (I-100) through Advanced (I-400) ICS training as well as position-specific training courses and task books that match NWCG competencies. Currently approximately 70 Type 3 IMTeams have been formed through this system.

The Type 1 and 2 IMTeams that are mentoring or supervising a Type 3 IMTeam, either on or off an incident, will be expected to sign off on their USFA task books and complete performance ratings when appropriate. When Type 3 IMTeams are assigned to an incident the cost for their assignment will be absorbed by the team members’ agencies and the USFA. The costs will not be charged to the incident.

According to the NWCG:

The goal will be to evaluate the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)/USFA program as a nationally viable program to be validated, endorsed and utilized for future national deployment in support of wildland teams or other national mobilizations under ESF4 or other auspices.

It is important to recognize that the intent of this pilot is not to have the FEMA/USFA Program qualify or endorse state and local resources to manage wildfire incidents independently. This would require meeting the National Wildland Fire Qualification System Guide (PMS 310-1); rather, it is to help build all-hazard response capabilities and boost resource availability to support large scale incidents.

The successful outcome of this Pilot Program will enable the wildland and the all-hazard communities to work more effectively together, thereby enhancing the overall national response capabilities.

I am having a hard time picturing how this would work, after a Type 3 IMTeam has gone through this process and had some USFA task books signed off. If they are not going to “manage wildfire incidents independently”, how would they be used? Maybe individuals from Type 3 teams will be cherry-picked to fill individual positions, for example, using a USFA-qualified Type 3 Logistics Section Chief on a fire if there was a vacancy on a Type 1 or 2 team. Surely not. If a Type 3 team had some Unit Leaders on their team (many don’t), it would be easier to integrate them into a Type 1 or 2 team.

Or a full Type 3 team might be used to perform a specific job on a fire, such as running a Functional Group, doing long-range planning, or working with local law enforcement to coordinate evacuations.

If the real goal is to simply give the Type 3 teams more emergency management experience while getting some task books signed off, that makes more sense.

via @FireInfoGirl

Military base uses prescribed fire prior to removing unexploded ordinance

Fort Ord prescribed fire helitorch
Contractors burn vegetation at Fort Ord in the fall of 2009. Photo: Chris Prescott, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Fort Ord, an Army base south of Monterey, California, (map) was closed in 1994. Since then the Army has been restoring portions of the base to a more natural condition. One of their toughest challenges is finding and removing inert and live ordnance in the impact areas which are covered in dense stands of brush, or in this case, “central maritime chaparral”, or CMC.

The ordnance removal teams can’t easily find the unexploded bombs and shells unless the brush is removed. They considered cutting it, but decided that a prescribed fire is the most environmentally friendly method when dealing with one of the last remaining stands of CMC in the state.

Contractors have been doing some of the burning as well as the burn planning. Barry Callenberger, the Principal of Wildland Rx, has been involved in the project. Barry used to work for the U.S. Forest Service on the Cleveland and Eldorado National Forests and in the Regional Office in California, until moving to the private sector in 1997 to work for North Tree Fire before forming his own company.

At least one burn, 500 acres in the fall of 2009, has already been conducted, and the Army plans to continue burning about 800 acres a year on portions of a 6,800-acre area of CMC.

Since 2001, ordnance specialists have removed unexploded ordnance from nearly 2,500 acres, finding over 12,000 unexploded ordnance items and 89,000 pounds of munitions debris.

I wonder if anyone receives hazard pay while working on these prescribed fires?

Via @FireInfoGirl