Wildfire briefing, November 21, 2014

FDNY Incident Management Team deploys to Buffalo, NY

The New York City Fire Department’s Incident Management Team has deployed to Buffalo, New York to assist in the organization and management of snow removal efforts following this week’s record snowfall. Friday morning at 5:45 the team departed from the Randalls Island Fire Academy after being requested by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and in coordination with the New York City Office of Emergency Management.

The FDNY saw the benefits of an IMT when they received help from Type 1 interagency IMTs after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Soon thereafter they began training personnel to fill the positions for a team. Since then, the FDNY IMT has responded to multiple national emergencies including forest fires; to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina; in Broome County, NY following Hurricane Irene and in New York after Hurricane Sandy.

Leaf burning leads to felony charge

A 74-year old man was charged with a felony after his leaf burning caused a wildfire north of Allentown, Pennsylvania on November 4. A police officer used a fire extinguisher to keep the fire, which had spread to within eight feet of a neighbor’s garage, from burning the structure.

“[Dale] Schaeffer failed to call the police or fire department, and continued to let the fire burn out of control in a reckless and dangerous manner,” the officer wrote in his affidavit of probable cause.

Mr. Schaeffer was arraigned Thursday before District Judge Robert Hawke on a felony charge of reckless burning and summary dangerous burning.

Grass fires occurring in Oklahoma

Cured grasses in Oklahoma are providing fuel for an increased number of wildfires in the state.

Brush fire at nudist resort

Firefighters suppressed a wildfire at the Sunny Rest Lodge on Thursday, in Carbon County, Pennsylvania.

Country Fire Service to cease aerial firefighting if a drone is spotted

State aviation operations manager David Pearce said South Australia’s Country Fire Service will cease all aerial operations at bushfires if an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is spotted in the area.

“Helicopters are particularly susceptible,” Mr Pearce said.

“If the drone is sucked into the intake of the jet engines, or goes into the tail rotor, then it’s probably curtains for the helicopter.”

Gyrocopter crash kills pilot, starts fire

The crash of a gyrocopter near Gatton in Queensland, Australia killed the pilot and started a bushfire on Friday.

Queensland helicopters to go high tech

QGAir Rescue
QGAir Rescue. Photo: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.

From itnews:

The Queensland (Australia) Government has invested $1 million to install screen sharing technology in its Kedron emergency services hub as well as five helicopter bases across the state.

The new kit – based on Cruiser Interactive technology – will allow Queensland Government Air (QGAir) teams across the six sites to share the same view of incoming data and emergency monitoring, and to switch between different screen views with a flick of the wrist.

Interactive screens have been set up in the co-ordination sites, onto which information from phones, tablets and PCs can be displayed.

Aero-Flite moving to Spokane

The company that operates Avro RJ-85 air tankers is moving from Kingman, Arizona to the airport at Spokane, Washington. Aero-Flite announced Thursday that it is moving its corporate headquarters and air tanker fleet to Spokane International Airport.

More information about Aero-Flite’s move is at Fire Aviation.

Drone video of wildfire in Portugal

This video of a fire in Portugal, shot August 29, 2013, is very impressive, and technically well done. If these devices turn out to be a hazard to firefighting aircraft, our Air Attack planes are going to have to live up to their name and start arming themselves with air-to air missiles.

Here is the description from FlyMoviePRO Portugal on YouTube:

Fire at Figueira do Guincho, concelho de Cascais – Biscai (Portugal), on the 29/08/2013 recorded by a small drone and a gopro.

Wildfire briefing, December 13, 2013

Airbus completes second round of tests of C295 airtanker

C295 water drop test.
C295 water drop test. Airbus photo.

Airbus is experimenting with a C295 that has been converted into an air tanker. The first tests were designed to monitor the performance of the aircraft as the water was released. In the second phase the company conducted seven water drops at a range near Cordoba, Spain where water was dropped into a grid of cups which measured the amount of water. After the engineers analyze the data they will know the volume and consistency of the drop pattern across the grid. The Interagency AirTanker Board requires similar tests before issuing federal certification for air tankers in the United States.

Fire Aviation has the rest of the story.

Western Governors prepared to do more to fight wildfires

At a meeting of the Western Governors Association on Thursday some of the state representatives said that in light of tight budgets at the federal level they are willing to spend more of their own resources to fight fires in their states. However not all of the governors at the conference shared that position, as reported by KTVN:

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval was alone in making an outright plea for federal firefighting resources. He said the Silver State should be entitled to more federal attention because it is home to more federal lands.

His fellow governors groaned and shook their heads, and [Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch”] Otter joked that someone should shut off the Nevada governor’s microphone.

Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado said that in addition to studying the possibility of establishing an aerial firefighting fleet, “the state is considering taking other local measures, including mandating that buildings use fire-resistant materials, and requiring property owners to disclose wildfire risks to potential buyers the same way they must disclose flood risks”, according to the KTVN report.

Granite Mountain Hotshots’ tribute fence items being preserved

After 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, family members, friends, and strangers left thousands of memorial items on the fence bordering the Prescott, Arizona fire station base of the crew. All of the items were removed a few weeks ago and are painstakingly being cataloged and preserved by volunteers. Below is an excerpt from an article at the Prescott Daily Courier:

Volunteer Deborah Balzano, who has devoted four days a week to the effort, said the process has been overwhelming at times.

“One day, I really lost it,” she said. “I found an infant’s onesie with the words, ‘My daddy is a hero.'”

And just like the fence served as a forum where the community could show its grief, volunteers say the preservation process has helped them deal with the tragedy.

“I wanted to do something,” volunteer Marian Powell explained on Thursday. “That was the same motivation people had for putting things on the fence – they wanted to do something. This is my way to do something.”

Volunteer Ered Matthew said that, for many, the fence served as “therapy through art and creating something.”

Ted Pohle, a retired schoolteacher, said he found the children’s tributes – including many miniature toy fire trucks – especially touching.

USFS awards sole source air tanker contract to Neptune

On Thursday the U.S. Forest Service awarded a sole source contract to Neptune Aviation to supply two next-generation air tankers for the next four to nine years beginning in 2014. The estimated value of the contract is $142,000,000 and has a base period of four years with the possibility of adding five more.

The details are at Fire Aviation.

Forest Service not using $100,000 worth of drones

The U.S. Forest Service spent $100,000 in 2007 to buy two Sky Seer drone aircraft that they have not figured out how to use. Apparently the agency purchased the drones seven years ago initially to be used for law enforcement, but FAA regulations and other problems have presented obstacles to the very expensive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) taking to the skies.

The details are at Fire Aviation.

Wildfire briefing, October 29, 2013

Smoke creates health problems in Australia

Smoke from wildfires and prescribed fires is being blamed for increased visits to hospitals in New South Wales. On Monday when air quality was at its worst, the number of people treated for asthma in hospitals more than doubled. In recent weeks Sydney has been inundated with smoke from bushfires, but since the weather moderated a week or so ago smoke from prescribed fires, or “backburns”, has replaced it.

Landowners are motivated to use fire to reduce the hazards around their property by insurance companies that impose higher premiums if they don’t have a buffer around their improvements. Some of them are taking advantage of the favorable weather to conduct the backburns before the normal beginning of the bushfire season in December.

Australian government warns operators of UAVs who operate over fires

In what may be a reaction to a stunning video and others taken by unmanned aerial vehicles over bushfires, Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority issued a warning to the operators of small UAVs, saying they are putting fire fighting operations at risk and should be aware of appropriate regulations.

Catastrophic wildfires in Colorado ignite new center for managing ‘WUI’ wildfire risk

Colorado State University’s Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship is launching a new center dedicated to creating and applying the next generation of wildfire management solutions. The Center for Managing Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Wildfire Risk will provide science-based answers to critical questions raised by the most destructive wildfires in Colorado’s history. The Center for Managing WUI Wildfire Risk will provide science-based answers to critical questions raised by the most destructive wildfires in Colorado’s history.

Catching up with Fire Aviation

Recent articles at Fire Aviation:

  • Disney to release animated wildfire aviation movie
  • V-22 Tilt-Rotor Osprey as a firefighting aircraft
  • K-MAX helicopter converted to unmanned aircraft system
  • Slow-motion video of Lockheed Electra L-188 retardant drops
  • 10 Tanker Air Carrier moves to Albuquerque, begins converting a third DC-10
  • Two Aircraft crashes in Australia connected to bushfires
  • Stunning UAV video of bushfire
  • Airliner painted to honor FDNY firefighters
  • Airbus begins tests of C295 air tanker
  • 2013 Airtanker and Water Scooper Forum

Prescribed fire projects underway

Pile burning, Grand Canyon
Pile burning on the Bright Angel project, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, October 24, 2013. NPS photo.
Prescribed fire Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Shasta-Trinity National Forest, October 21, 2013. USFS photo.
Prescribed fire on the Helena National Forest
Prescribed fire on the Helena National Forest, Helena Ranger District. USFS photo.

A drone records video at Detroit fire

A drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, shot this video of a structure fire in Detroit Wednesday. If it were live video and available to firefighters at the scene, this technology could be invaluable at wildfires, prescribed fires, as well as structure fires.

Here is the description of the Detroit video from YouTube:


“Published on 29 May 2013


Two Detroit firefighters were hurt Wednesday evening when debris from a building fell on them. The firefighters were battling a two-alarm building fire at East Ferry Avenue and Chene Street when what appeared to be bricks fell from the top of the building.

A firefighter on a ladder and a firefighter that was standing under the ladder were hit. They were taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital for injuries to their neck and back. One of them has a severe concussion and a broken ankle. It took more than 35 firefighters to put out the flames — and sources say the firefighters were also battling broken trucks and issues getting water.

-Harry Arnold, Detroit Drone / iTVDetroit”

USFS tries out UAV for studying fires

UAV view of fire
The view of a prescribed fire from the hexacopter

The U.S. Forest Service is experimenting with a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for studying smoke generated by fires. The six-rotor hexacopter can carry a five-pound payload and the onboard GPS enables it to hover in one spot or follow a predetermined flight path.

“We first took a test flight in a field near the University of Georgia,” says Scott Goodrick, project leader of the Forest Service Southern Research Station Center for Forest Disturbance Science. “Then a friend told me he was doing a prescribed burn on his pasture, so we took it out there to see how it would perform. We’re very impressed with how easy it is to maneuver the hexacopter.”

“For now we’re just using the camera, which provides very good images,” says Goodrick. “Eventually we’ll add an infrared camera so that we can measure different aspects of fire from overhead, as well instruments to measure weather variables and particulate matter in smoke from fire. At some point, we’ll be able to measure what happens to vegetation after a fire and compare this to the data taken by satellites.”

Here are links to two recent articles about the use of drones to monitor wildfires, in Popular Science and the New York Times.