WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- Rapid response from the aerial firefighting community in the Far West helped to speed containment of one of Southern California's most devastating wildland fires, which broke out near Banning in Riverside County on August 7.
The Silver Fire, as it is known, sent heavy smoke into the close by Palm Springs area, burned nearly 20,300 acres, and destroyed 48 structures, including 26 residences, as of Monday, August 12, when containment reached 95 percent, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE).
"At the direction of the US Forest Service, we immediately deployed two of our air tankers to San Bernardino for retardant dropping on the Silver Fire," said Dan Snyder, Chief Operating Officer of Neptune Aviation in Missoula, Montana. The tankers, he explained, included one of the operator's recently acquired BAe 146 jets, which had been flying out of Pocatello, Idaho; and one of its legacy P2V Neptunes, located at Fresno, California. The two aircraft flew more than 40 sorties, with the BAe 146 accounting for over 60 percent, given its higher speed. Each had a field support staff of two mechanics, plus two pilots.
"The tanker operations contended with mountainous terrain, steep canyons, and high, gusty, unpredictable winds on this fire—all the typical conditions for a Southern California wildland fire," said Snyder, who also noted how the BAe 146, the company's new-generation tanker, modified with a 3,000 gallon capacity tank, continues to prove itself in the aerial firefighting role.
"It's a quick-loading, fast-moving aircraft, which fits well within the existing USFS tanker base infrastructure," he explained. "With its short fuselage and wingspan, and light weight, it requires no special accommodations."
Robin Rogers, Vice-President of Fresno-based Rogers Helicopters, reported that the company dispatched one of its Bell 212 helicopters for firefighting duty under a CALFIRE call when needed contract. The aircraft arrived at Banning with a pilot, mechanic and fuel truck operator on Thursday, August 8. The helicopter, which drops water from a 240-gallon capacity bucket, had been assigned, only days before, to the Falls Fire, also in Southern California.
"The helicopter has been in constant use over the past 30 days on fires throughout California, and Oregon," Rogers said. "Since May, we have seen heavy demand on our helicopters by Federal and State government fire protection agencies, with one of our Bell 212s currently operating as far north as Alaska," he reported.
"The Silver Fire's proximity to Palm Springs is another example of how vulnerable life and property are in an urban/wildland interface environment, which is expanding, and becoming increasingly susceptible to fires generated to an extent by climate change," noted Tom Eversole, Executive Director of the American Helicopter Services and Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA). "At the same time, we are seeing once again how privately funded operators, working under contract to State and Federal agencies, can quickly deploy their firefighting aircraft on a moment's notice, saving lives, homes and businesses."
Neptune Aviation and Rogers Helicopters are members of AHSAFA, the Washington, DC-based trade association representing the commercial operators of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft engaged in aerial wildland firefighting.
Media Contact: Tom Eversole, American Helicopter Services & Aerial Firefighting Association, 703040904355, firstname.lastname@example.org
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SOURCE American Helicopter Services & Aerial Firefighting Association