An MQ-1 Predator UAV supported firefighters in their efforts to control the huge California Rim Fire in August-September, according to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI). The company noted that the UAV’s more-than-24-hour endurance offered a “value-added capability” over helicopters, which ground commanders had relied on previously but are required to refuel every two hours.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) will resume contract night helicopter firefighting operations in Southern California next year. The announcement was made recently after the USFS evaluated a study it commissioned that was completed in 2010. That study found that helicopter night operations can mitigate the costs and risks of wildfires by retarding their size.
After nearly two months of record forest fires from Michigan to California, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) added four more leased heavy helicopters to its firefighting fleet in late June. The additions include two Sikorsky S-61s from Siller Helicopters, an Erickson S-64 Air-Crane and an S-70 from Firehawk Helicopters. A spokesman for Erickson said that last year the company had six helicopters flying USFS contracts; this year that number is eight. The USFS said the helicopters will be used for large-fire support and in the initial assault both to drop retardant and support ground crews.
After nearly two months of record forest fires from Michigan to California, the U.S. Forest Service added four more leased heavy helicopters to its firefighting fleet this week. The additions include two Sikorsky S-61s from Siller Helicopters, an Erickson S-64 Air-Crane and an S-70 from Firehawk Helicopters.
The fatal crash of a Neptune Aviation Services Lockheed P2V (callsign “Tanker 11”), while doing fire suppression work on the White Rock Fire near the Nevada-Utah state line on June 3, has caused the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to reexamine its firefighting capabilities in the region. The NTSB is investigating the accident.
Bristow is offering a new six-day course, “Wildland Fire Orientation for Rotary Wing Pilots,” covering “basic knowledge of fire behavior, wildland fire operations and the role of helicopters in fire suppression and prescribed burning.” Students will participate in two modules developed by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG): S-190 Introduction to Fire Behavior and S-130 Firefighter Training.
A pair of Columbia Vertol II tandem-rotor helicopters have been fighting record Texas wildfires at Alpine, Sonora and Brownwood. One aircraft joined the firefighting efforts on March 3 and a second was called in April 22. The Texas wildfires have consumed more than 1.4 million acres since January, with related smoke reaching major metropolitan areas.
The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) has received five AKV cycle counter systems for its Bell UH-1 fire-fighting and utility helicopters from Dart Helicopter Services. Dart handles worldwide distribution for AKV.
Australia’s Regional Express (Rex) has established a fund worth A$200,000 ($135,000) in the form of air fares and other means to aid victims of the wildfires that ravaged much of the southeastern state of Victoria last month. Rex also organized collections aboard all its flights and promised to match dollar-for-dollar whatever passengers give.
With the recent wildfires in Northern California reaching historic proportions, the human toll rose as a helicopter ferrying an 11-member firefighting crew from the front lines crashed on August 5, resulting in nine fatalities (see story on facing page).
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