In the wake of a stinging critique issued by the Los Angeles County Fire Department after last year’s Station Fire, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is reviewing its ban on most nighttime aerial fire fighting. The Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest raged for nearly two months before it was contained, but not until it had destroyed 250 sq mi of forest (160,000 acres) and 96 homes.
National Interagency Fire Center
By mid-June the national wildfire situation was speeding past all-time record proportions in nearly every category. According to a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho, the total acreage burned so far this year is nearly double the 10-year annual average (861,786 acres) at 1,546,742 acres. “This is the driest much of the West, especially Colorado, has been in the last 50 years,” she said.
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.
Helitanker operators may have thought they would profit after the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Department of the Interior (DOI) terminated contracts for 33 fixed-wing large airtankers due to airworthiness concerns last May, but a quiet fire season and a decrease in profitable call-when-needed deployments mitigated the potential windfall.