17 August 2012

USFS to OK night aerial drops on So Cal fires

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service has decided to allow nighttime aerial attacks on wildfires in Southern California in a change of policy spurred by controversy over a 2009 blaze that grew to 250 square miles and threatened Los Angeles suburbs, congressional representatives announced Thursday.
Photo of Station Fire above JPL. Credits to Eecue,
 used without his permission, I'll apologize next time I see him;)

It appears that next year (2013) the USFS will contract one helicopter for night flights / water drops for the southern portion of USFS Region 5, AKA Southern California. LA County helicopters already got the go ahead to fly at night a few years ago, as long as the crew were comfortable with the task, but it's good to see that the feds are back on board.

Back in the 70's there was a huge wreck between an LA County and a USFS airship flying night operations, so that put the kibosh on the whole flying at night option. Three years ago when the station fire broke out there were issues with committing resources, especially air resources, which allowed the fire to explode in size over night.

I remember hearing the initial call of the Station Fire go out on ANF Forest Net as I drove to work in Hollywood. I was driving in from Pasadena around 3:00 PM (I had a night gig back then) The Morris fire had been burning in San Gabriel Canyon and a lot of ANF resources were committed to it. I thought nothing of the initial call because fires break out almost every day during the summer and this one was right near the Crest station. I caught a news report around 7:00 PM during my dinner break and they mentioned a wild fire threatening La Canada Flintridge and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. On my way home around 2:00 AM, I stopped by the Devils Gate Dam in Pasadena to see the sight depicted above.

I thought to myself, "wow, how did this get so big so fast?" To answer that question, you can read the Initial Attack Review here. Basically the terrain was to rugged for ground crews, the humidity was low, and the fuels were high. With night approaching the air attack had to stop, so the fire burned on...

Read a NPR story with Dianne Feinstein blessing us with her thoughts.

or, read more on WildfireToday from a guy that seems to know what he is talking about.

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