Report released for fatal crash of C-130 air tanker in Australia

September 25, 2020  |  5:23 p.m. MDT

Flight path B134 air tanker crash

This article was first published at Fire Aviation September 24, 2020

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released an interim report about the January 23, 2020 crash of a C-130, Air Tanker 134, that killed the three crewmembers on board. This follows the preliminary report the agency issued in February, 2020. The aircraft was known as Bomber 134 (B134) in Australia.

“The interim report does not contain findings nor identify safety issues, which will be contained in the final report. However, it does detail the extensive evidence gathered to date, which has helped ATSB investigators develop a detailed picture of this tragic accident’s sequence of events,” said ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood.

Tanker 134 at Medford, Oregon
Tanker 134 (B134) at Medford, Oregon July 27, 2019. Photo by Tim Crippin.

It was very windy on January 23, with a forecast for the possibility of mountain waves. Before the incident a birddog, similar to a lead plane, and  Bomber 137 (B137), formerly Tanker 138, a Boeing 737 that Coulson sold to New South Wales, was tasked to drop on a fire in the Adaminaby area. Based on the weather the birddog pilot declined the assignment. After B137 made a drop on the fire, the crew reported having experienced uncommanded aircraft rolls up to 45° angle of bank (due to wind) and a windshear warning from the aircraft on‑board systems.

After completing the drop, the B137 crew sent a text message to the birddog pilot indicating that the conditions were “horrible down there. Don’t send anybody and we’re not going back.” They also reported to the Cooma FCC that the conditions were unsuitable for firebombing operations. During B137’s return flight to Richmond, the Richmond air base manager requested that they reload the aircraft in Canberra and return to Adaminaby. The Pilot in Command (PIC) replied that they would not be returning to Adaminaby due to the weather conditions.

B134 was dispatched to the fire at Adaminaby. While they were in route, the PIC of B137 called to inform them of the actual conditions, and that B137 would not be returning to Adaminaby.

After arriving at Adaminaby the PIC of B134 contacted the air operations officer at the Cooma FCC by radio and advised them that it was too smoky and windy to complete a retardant drop at that location. The Cooma air operations officer then provided the crew with the location of the Good Good Fire, about 58 km to the east of Adaminaby, with the objective of conducting structure and property protection near Peak View. Again, there was no birddog operating with the air tanker.

B134 flight path air tanker crash
Flight path overview (in white), including the times and locations of where the crew of B134 was in communication with others. From the report.

Analysis of a witness video confirmed that the aircraft initially established a positive rate of climb and was banking to the left following the retardant drop, the report details. Continue reading “Report released for fatal crash of C-130 air tanker in Australia”

Off duty firefighter dies on Archie Creek Fire in Oregon

September 23, 2020 | 8:22 p.m. PDT

Archie Creek Fire map
Archie Creek Fire map, 2:35 p.m. PDT Sept. 22, 2020.

A heavy equipment operator passed away on the Archie Creek Fire in Western Oregon. The Incident Management Team announced September 23 the death of Walter (Wally) Samuel Elsbury, Jr., who was found unresponsive in his vehicle at a staging area September 18, 2020 before he began his shift.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office responded and notified Mr. Elsbury’s family. No foul play is suspected.

Mr. Elsbury, of Elsbury Logging Company in Burns/Hines, Oregon, had been working on the fire for about a week as skidgeon operator. He was helping to protect structures along Little River Road south of Glide on the west flank of the fire.

“The Bureau of Land Management, Umpqua National Forest, and Douglas Forest Protective Association are deeply saddened over Mr. Elsbury’s death,” said Incident Commander Mike Dueitt. “We want the Elsbury family to know our Incident Management Team, the firefighting community as a whole, and the residents along Little River Road are forever grateful for the work Wally did to protect homes from the Archie Creek Fire. Our condolences to you for the loss of your loved one.”

The fire has burned 131,000 acres since it started on September 8.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.

Pilot identified in crash of air tanker in Idaho

Schill Fire
Schill Fire. BLM photo.

Updated September 23, 2020  |  3:40 p.m. MDT

The Bureau of Land Management has provided more information about the crash of a single engine air tanker:

“On Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, at approximately 7 p.m. MDT, a Single Engine Air Tanker with one pilot on board was involved in a fatal accident during initial attack operations on the Schill Fire, located approximately 2 miles southeast of Emmett.

“The pilot, Ricky Fulton, perished. The aircraft, T-857, was owned by Aero S.E.A.T. Incorporated and was on an on-call contract with BLM Fire and Aviation at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. Firefighters on the scene rendered medical aid to the pilot and called for Life Flight, but the pilot did not survive his injuries.

“The 30-acre Schill Fire started at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22 in grass and brush in steep terrain. It was contained at approximately 10 p.m. on Tuesday. The cause of the Schill Fire is under investigation.”


Originally published September 23, 2020  |  8:58 a.m. MDT

The Bureau of Land Management announced that the pilot of a single engine air tanker (SEAT) was killed Tuesday evening September 22 while working on a wildfire near Emmett, Idaho. The agency said more information will be released following family notifications.

KTVB reported the accident occurred near Pearl Road about two miles southeast of Emmett. The fire started around 4:30 p.m. and grew to 25 acres as two SEATs and one helicopter assisted firefighters on the ground. According to the Gem County Sheriff’s Office, the air tanker was dropping retardant when it went down.

This is the sixth firefighting pilot and the third SEAT pilot to be killed in the United States this year. In addition, three members of the crew of a C-130 from the U.S. died when their air tanker crashed January 23, 2020 while fighting a bushfire in New South Wales, Australia.

Our sincere condolences go out to the pilot’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Steve, and Tom.

Name released for forestry technician killed September 17 on Southern California fire

Charlie Morton was a Squad Boss on the Big Bear Hotshots

The U.S. Forest Service has released the name of the forestry technician who died September 17, 2020 in Southern California. Charlie Morton, a Squad Boss on the Big Bear Hotshots passed away on the El Dorado Fire .

Below is an excerpt from a message sent to all Forest Service employees by Chief Vicki Christiansen September 21 at 5:35 p.m.


Charlie Morton
Charlie Morton, USFS photo.

“Local efforts to support the firefighter fatality that occurred last Thursday, September 17th have progressed and we are now able to share more information with you. Tragically, Charlie Morton, Squad Boss on the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Crew, died during suppression activities on the El Dorado Fire on the San Bernardino National Forest in California. The Big Bear Hotshots are local to the San Bernardino National Forest.

“Charlie joined the San Bernardino National Forest in 2007 and worked on both the Front Country and Mountaintop Ranger Districts, for the Mill Creek Interagency Hotshots, Engine 31, Engine 19, and the Big Bear Interagency Hotshots. His family has asked us to share, “Charlie is survived by his wife and daughter, his parents, two brothers, cousins, and friends. He’s loved and will be missed. May he rest easy in heaven.

“The loss of an employee in the line of duty is one of the hardest things we face in our Forest Service family. Certainly, this is true for me as your Chief. Our hearts go out to Charlie’s coworkers, friends and loved ones. Charlie was a well-respected firefighter and leader who was always there for his squad and his crew at the toughest times. We will keep the Big Bear Hotshots and the San Bernardino National Forest employees and community in our thoughts and prayers.

“Now more than ever we are reminded of the truly honorable work and sacrifices made by our wildland fire employees. They commit themselves each day, for weeks and months on end, to protecting lives and supporting communities around the country, in service to their fellow Americans. Our nation owes them all a debt of gratitude.

“We are still learning about the circumstances surrounding Charlie’s passing. We will provide information on plans for services and expressions of condolence as soon as they become available. But for now, I extend my deepest sympathies to Charlie’s coworkers, friends and loved ones. Again, they will remain in our thoughts and prayers.”


Investigators found that the El Dorado Fire was started by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party.

Send cards and condolences to the Morton family here:
P.O. Box 63564
Irvine, CA 92602.

For FedEx or UPS:
c/o ‘Support for Charlie’
1 League # 63564
Irvine, CA 92602.

We send out our sincere condolences for Mr. Morton’s family, friends, and co-workers.

A firefighter has died on the El Dorado Fire in Southern California

The wildfire started from gender-reveal party pyrotechnics

Forest Service fatality

The U.S. Forest Service announced in a news release this morning that a firefighter was killed while working on the El Dorado Fire in Southern California Thursday, September 17, 2020. Neither the name nor the circumstances were released.

CBS News reported that the firefighter had been missing.

Crews had been trying to locate the firefighter, who went missing in the San Bernardino National Forest while fighting the El Dorado Fire, officials said Thursday night, CBS Los Angeles reported. The firefighter was found dead, according to San Bernardino National Forest Public Information Officer Kate Kramer.

This blaze which has burned about 19,000 acres and destroyed 4 homes was started by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used at a gender reveal party September 5, 2020.

The fire is northeast of Yucaipa just west of the Apple Fire that burned 33,000 acres 5 weeks ago.

Our sincere condolences go out to the firefighter’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.

More details about the August 31, 2020 fatality on the Mendocino National Forest

Diane Jones fatality firefighter California

The U.S. Fire Administration released a notice about the August 31 death of Diane Jones on the Mendocino National Forest. She was repositioning an engine when it backed over an embankment into a fire.

The firefighters were working on the Tatham Fire, part of the August Complex of fires southwest of Red Bluff, when the vehicle accident occurred.

May she rest in peace.