Winners of this year’s Sikorsky Award for Humanitarian Service talk to Curt Epstein about the past, present and future of helicopter use in firefighting. Click here to watch.
With fires in Colorado and Arizona consuming more than 500,000 acres of forest earlier this summer and other wildfires burning three million acres across the U.S. as of July 4, Evergreen Helicopters Inc. (EHI) of McMinnville, Ore., scrambled to keep crews in action to meet Forest Service and international fire-suppression needs.
In a ceremony yesterday at the Sikorsky booth (No. 1641), Sergei Sikorsky presented four senior members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department with Sikorsky’s Winged S service award to mark the 50th anniversary of the L.A. County’s aerial firefighting operations. He particularly praised the firefighters’ last year of service dealing with a series of catastrophic blazes in greater Los Angeles.
The helicopter division of Kaman Aerospace (Booth No. 2447) announced that it is offering a second water tank option for K-Max helicopter operators. The Bloomfield, Conn.-based company will continue to offer the Kawak Aviation Technologies 700-gallon fixed-tank system, but operators can now also opt for an FAA-certified fixed-tank system from Isolair Helicopter Systems.
Just when you think everything that can be done with the basic SEI Industries Bambi bucket has been done, the Delta, British Columbia, Canada-based company comes up with some surprises. For those who don’t know, the Bambi Bucket is the water-dropping device of choice among airborne firefighters, especially when it comes to plonking large amounts of water or other flame retardant precisely onto forest blazes.
As AIN was going to press, the first of four S-64 Aircranes arrived in Italy (see 'Vintage heavy lifter gets new-generation avionics'). It was due to make its inaugural flight on October 15.
Despite the media attention on the Montana fires last summer and Southern California fires in October, last year’s fire season didn’t come even close to being the worst in recent times, according to statistics generated by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) of Boise, Idaho.
Some forest fires start with a blast of jagged lightning, incinerating the dry timber and flinging the flaming fragments into the tinder-dry underbrush from which flames soon reach skyward.
“We need the Mars! Get the Mars!” shouts a frantic firefighter over the VHF fire frequency. A wildfire is racing up a hillside on the eastern fringe of Osoyoos, B.C., Canada, and seems certain to engulf a house in its path. Helicopters are bucketing water onto the flames in an effort to slow the fire’s advance, but still the flames leap up the side of the valley unimpeded.
Last year was something of a landmark in helicopter firefighting activity. During one of the driest summers on record in the northern hemisphere, rotorcraft were deployed for long periods–often to areas where they had not been needed before–to stem the progress of flames.