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.
Wildland fire suppression
Although excessive rainfall and mudslides have hit Southern California hard this winter, near-record lows in rain and snowfall elsewhere in the west are increasing the risk of forest fires. A Columbia Helicopters spokesman said, “There have already been several fast-moving grass fires in the area. If these conditions continue–and forecasts say they will–we will have tinder-dry forests that are ripe for fires.
Fighting fires from the air used to be an ad hoc business, as unpredictable as the odds of getting a return on your equipment investment. Even during a hot summer, aircraft operators in southern Europe might have their Bambi buckets gathering dust in the corner of a hangar on the off-chance a camping stove should topple over somewhere.
HAI is warning its members that a dry, warm winter across the Northwest and even the record winter rainfall in the Southwest have created conditions that indicate this year’s wildfire season could be extreme.
Australia has started a three-year research program to investigate the effectiveness of aerial “bush-fire” suppression. The Bush-fire Cooperative Research Centre (BCRC) will look at factors such as the level of aerial and ground suppression required for a fire suppression job and the upper intensity limit for effective suppression from different resources.
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