Close calls and injuries in Texas

A 215-acre wildfire in San Jacinto County was contained on August 2 according to a report by ABC-13 News. That afternoon, resources were requested from Texas A&M Forest Service (TAMFS) on the Snowhill Fire. Shortly after 1 p.m. crews on the fire reported moderate to high fire behavior with several structures threatened, evacuations under way, and road closures in place.

The agency also reported that two of its firefighters suffered burn injuries when fire behavior intensified at about 5 p.m.

The agency’s 24-hour report noted that fire behavior intensified on a part of the fire where a dozer crew was working. The two injured firefighters were not wearing PPE properly and both experienced first- and second-degree burns to the face, hands, and sides.

The two firefighters were transported to a hospital and both were treated and released.

Two days later the agency released its 72-hour report on an aircraft incident in Travis County.

On August 1 at about 10:30 p.m. an air tactical aircraft working a different fire was involved in an incident at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport — about 5 miles southeast of downtown Austin — after flying the Powder Keg Pine Fire near Bastrop, about 150 miles southwest of Lake Livingston near the location of the Snowhill Fire.

Texas map

TAMFS resources were requested on August 1 on the Powder Keg Pine Fire in Bastrop County. Numerous aircraft were dispatched, including the Air Attack Platform at the Gillespie County Airport in Fredericksburg. The aircraft is a King Air C90A turboprop registered to Safford Aviation Service in Coolidge, Arizona (which had not yet replied to a request for comment when this was posted).

At about 8:40 p.m. the aircraft was released from the fire and made a 30-minute flight back to the Gillespie County Airport. On approach, though, the pilot and ATGS reported an issue with landing gear indicators; just two of the three indicated that the landing gear was down and locked. The pilot and ATGS attempted to fix the issue manually, and at about 9:30 p.m. they reported they had two hours of fuel left and intended to fly to Austin-Bergstrom, an FAA-controlled airport, where they’d do fly-bys so the control tower could see whether the landing gear was actually down. After two fly-bys, the tower told them it appeared to be down, and they approached for landing.

Upon landing the aircraft, though, the right landing gear collapsed, and the right propeller blades contacted the concrete and were damaged. The right gear appeared to have collapsed back into the aircraft gear hold, according to the report.

Neither the pilot nor the ATGS was injured and no civilians were injured. Both the pilot and ATGS were in constant radio communication with TAMFS dispatch in College Station, and the aircraft was tracked using the real-time map-based Automated Flight Following (AFF) system. The NTSB will investigate.

Spectrum News reported that Texas A&M Forest Service, the state’s lead agency for wildfire response, on Monday raised the state’s preparedness level to 4 — its second-highest level. The agency said over the past seven days it has responded to 80 wildfires burning 8,521 acres, with 41 fires since Friday.

The forecast for this week calls for more triple-digit temperatures with few chances for rain, and 164 Texas counties are now under burn bans.

Crash of air attack aircraft in Arizona kills two aerial firefighters

14 miles northeast of Wikieup

This article was first published on Fire Aviation.

Two aerial firefighters were killed July 10 in the crash of an air attack aircraft associated with a wildfire in Arizona. It occurred on the Cedar Basin Fire which is 14 miles northeast of Wikieup, Arizona and 43 miles southeast of Kingman, Arizona.

Below is the statement released Saturday night July 10.

“The Bureau of Land Management is currently working with other local, state, and federal agencies to respond to a fatal aircraft accident associated with the Cedar Basin Fire near Wikieup, Arizona. The accident occurred around noon today (July 10) and involved an air attack aircraft performing aerial reconnaissance and command and control over the fire. Two crew members were on board and we are sad to report there were no survivors. We will provide additional information pending next of kin notification. Our hearts go out to the families of our brave wildland firefighters.”

The Cedar Basin Fire, a result of thunderstorms, was reported to dispatch July 9 after 6 p.m. That night it was not possible to get a good visual due to darkness. On July 10 a helicopter performed a reconnaissance and discovered an active fire. Later that night the fire had burned about 300 acres.

We send our sincere condolences to the families, friends, and co-workers of the two firefighters.

Map Cedar Basin Fire
Map showing the location of the Cedar Basin Fire at 2:54 p.m. MDT July 10, 2021.