Martin Mars reloads

Martin Mars scooping
Hawaii Martin Mars scooping water at Lake Shasta.

I wonder what kind of wake the Martin Mars creates when it skims along a 3-mile stretch of Lake Shasta filling its 7,200 gallon tank at 80 miles per hour? It probably makes the lake a little choppy for the water skiers for a few minutes.

Always film posterOn Friday, it did this 20 times, reloading about every 25 minutes, dropping the water on the nearby 16,700-acre Motion fire. That is a damn good turn around time for an air tanker. The pilots have the option of dropping plain water on the fires, or mixing class A foam or fire retardant gel into the water.

Do you remember the opening sequence in the 1989 movie, the Steven Spielberg production with Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, and John Goodman that is centered around air tanker pilots? Turn up the sound when you play the 55-second clip below….it’s more fun that way.

One of the lines in the movie is still food for thought for firefighters.  John Goodman said to Richard Dreyfuss:

Pete, there ain’t no war here… And this is why you’re not exactly a hero for taking these chances you take. You’re more of what I would call a dickhead.

Some trivia about the movie, from Wikipedia:

The movie is set in the Kootenai National Forest in Montana, with some scenes filmed in and around Libby, Montana. Some 500 people from Libby were recruited for the movie as extras to act as wildland firefighters.

In the opening scenes the forest fires were created by Pathfinder Helicopter Inc.. They were hired by the Forest Service to burn some clearcuts near Libby that were filmed for the movie. The helicopter Pilot was Steve Tolle and the Ground Crew Manager was Jim Leighty.

The Libby airport was used to double as the Forest Service Headquarters in the movie.

Washington: Candidate's house burns

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Darcy Burner is a Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional district representing Washington state. On July 1 her 5-year old son woke her up and told her the house was on fire. She escaped with her family and just the clothes on her back. It turns out that a faulty lamp in her son’s room started the fire.

Check out the shirt. It says “end war” in XML code, which is used on web sites. Burner used to work for Microsoft and is a geek… obviously.


This 2+ minute video shot just after the fire was knocked down is worth viewing. It also explains how the family’s Golden Retriever was rescued. Burner had a remarkably good attitude, considering the circumstances.

If you are familiar with Senator John Tester of Montana, you will enjoy Darcy’s 37-second campaign ad.

California: Basin fire July 5

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The Basin complex has burned completely around the community of Big Sur on the east side of the coast highway. From Big Sur it stretches 4 miles north into Andrew Molera State Park and is within 1/10 of a mile from the highway in most of these areas. So far it has not crossed the highway north of Big Sur.

On the south side the fire has been active south of Esalen. Firefighters are still working on the line on the ridge from the North Coast Ridge Trail down to the coast, in the area of Upper Bee campground. The fire is still a few miles away from the Indians fire.

On the east side it has reached Willow Springs campground and is about 1-1/2 miles away from Tassajara.

The electricity in Big Sur is completely out. In spite of the evacuation orders, some residents are remaining at their homes and businesses, not confident that if they evacuated that there would be enough firefighters available to protect their property.

At least one resident started their own backfire. After being warned by a deputy sheriff, Ross Curtis, 48, continued the backfiring and was arrested. Uncoordinated backfires are extremely dangerous for firefighters.

In the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego county, a rogue backfire contributed to the death of fire captain Steve Rucker and injuries to three other members of the Novato Fire Protection District.

During the Jasper fire in 2001 west of Custer, South Dakota, Governor Bill Janklow did not agree with the strategy being implemented by the Type 1 Incident Management Team, and ordered the National Guard to construct dozer lines out ahead of the fire, without coordinating with the Team or the firefighters assigned to the fire.

When he threatened to order backfires be lit, again without any coordination, the Incident Commander had U. S. Marshals staged, ready to make arrests as necessary. The backfires would have been far out ahead of the fire, anchored to nothing. They would have become new, free-burning fires that would have become a nightmare for firefighters and residents. Thankfully, and to the relief of firefighters that would have been endangered by such an irresponsible act, the governor did not give the final order to start the backfires.

The moral of the story is, rogue backfires can endanger or even kill firefighters and others. For a resident to do this, to save some personal property that can be replaced, is reckless, careless, foolish, and stupid.

The fire is 68,712 acres and 5% contained. The map shows the fire perimeter as of late yesterday, Friday. Click on it to see a larger version.

Siege of '87…. and '08

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I was being interviewed by a reporter from a newspaper in northern California today about the differences and similarities between the lightning fire Sieges of ’87 and ’08. At the end of the interview the subject of the pin that was given to the ’87 veterans came up, since she had seen a photo of it on Wildfire today.

She called me again later saying that she had talked to another firefighter who told her about a poster that was also given to the ’87 vets and she asked if I had one. I said I was not sure, and that I had not seen it in years, but that I would look for it. She wanted photos of the pin and the poster, if possible.

After a short search, I found the poster, only a little worn and wrinkled. So here they both are. I wonder if something similar will be given to the veterans of the Siege of ’08?

California fires, by the numbers

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CalFire put together these stats about the recent lightning-caused fires in California. These numbers are huge.

Statewide Fire Statistics
Total Fires at Peak: 1,781
Total Fires Contained: 1,446
Total Active Fires: 335
Total Acres Burned: 520,831

These numbers are total fires and acres that have occurred from state, local and federal firefighting agencies beginning June 20, 2008. Nearly 80% of the 1,781 total fires have now been contained.

CAL FIRE Statistics
Total Fires at Peak: 1,005
Fires Contained: 801
Active Fires: 57

These numbers are total fires and acres that have occurred ONLY in CAL FIRE jurisdiction since June 20, 2008.
The number of contained and active fires will not equal the total due to some fires merging together.

Statewide Resources Committed
Personnel Committed: 19,925
Fire Engines: 1,570
Hand Crews: 631
Dozers: 327
Water Tenders: 417
Helicopters: 109

What's out there on the web

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In the winter Chopper Chick flies helicopters for TV stations and police departments in southern California. She also does “lift jobs”, using a long line to lift objects like air conditioning units to the tops of buildings. But in the summer she flies helicopters on fires. Her blog has some behind the scenes information about what it’s like to fly a Sikorsky 58T over smoke-shrouded, pot-garden-infested, Mendocino County in northern California.

Check out the size of that exhaust pipe just above her head in the picture. And click on the photo to see a larger version.


Firefighter Blog always has good information about the world of wildland fire. Recently he has been covering the Gap fire west of Santa Barbara.

Photo courtesy of Chopper Chick