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Air Tanker Pilots say "Unbelievable!"

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  • Air Tanker Pilots say "Unbelievable!"

    God bless 'em all.....our firefighters in the skies!

    SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP ) - In two decades of fighting fires
    from the sky, air tanker pilot Peter Bell had never seen anything
    like the vortex in the Southern California skies this week.
    "There was a big spiral, like a tornado, that sucked all this
    dirt and garbage into the sky," he says.
    Windshields on six tankers were cracked by the debris, and
    cockpits filled with smoke. Another pilot saw a 4-by-8 foot sheet
    of plywood sail past at 1,500 feet.
    Thirty-five air tankers - and 86 helicopters - have been
    attacking flames since the wildfires started in Southern California
    on Oct. 21. Their key role has been to dump their $3,000 loads of
    retardant on the outskirts of the fires to help crews build
    firelines around the flames.
    To many of the pilots, the fires that have ravaged Southern
    California this week are among the most intense they have ever had
    to fly through.
    Usually, airtanker pilots are employed to douse small fires
    before they spread. Here, pilots are being forced to fly through
    narrow canyons, thick smoke and high winds. Earlier this week, the
    amount of wind-swept debris they were encountering prompted pilots
    to begin asking for reconnaissance planes to fly ahead of them on
    "People think we're daredevils, but we're not," said Bell, a
    pilot from Missoula, Mont., working under contract for the U.S.
    Forest Service. "All we do is practice safety, safety and
    In a 270,000-acre wildfire in San Diego County, the state's
    largest blaze, flames sent hot air into the atmosphere, while
    cooler air alongside the flames pushed down, creating a wind shear.
    "It's like driving a car over a plowed field," said California
    Department of Forestry Capt. Ron Serabia.
    Serabia and other pilots flying missions throughout Southern
    California said they were stunned by the damage caused by the
    blazes: "It looks like the surface of the moon. There's not a
    stick of wood."
    "Have you ever seen pictures of Hiroshima? That's what it looks
    like," said tanker pilot Jim Cook.
    The job has risks even during lesser fires.
    Two pilots died earlier this month when an air tanker just like
    the one Bell flies crashed in the San Bernardino National Forest,
    where Bell has been working this week. It was the eighth air tanker
    crash in the United States in the past decade, according to the
    National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. Sixteen people
    have died.
    Three crew members were killed in a June 2002 crash near Reno,
    Nev., when the wings fell off a 1957-model C-130A tanker as it
    dropped retardant. The next month, a wing snapped off a P4Y-2 air
    tanker near Estes Park, Colo., killing both crewmen. Those two
    types of tankers have been grounded by the Forest Service and
    Bureau of Land Management.
    The nation's fleet of air tankers includes Orions, DC-4s, DC-6s,
    and DC-7s and P-2V Neptunes, owned and operated by private
    companies under contract with the Forest Service or state forestry
    Only about 12 tankers can fly around any single fire without
    creating gridlock or risking a collision, said Fred Batchelor of
    the California Forestry Department.
    On Thursday, dense fog kept planes grounded most of the day in
    the San Bernardino region. On Wednesday, it was thick smoke that
    kept them down. Earlier in the week, 30 mph Santa Ana winds off the
    desert made it useless for them to even attempt dropping fire
    The planes do not directly save homes. Pilots said their heavy
    load of retardant could do more damage to a house than a fire
    At a Forest Service air tanker center in San Bernardino, where
    the planes make 25-minute dashes in and out of a blaze dozens of
    times a day, shaded bleachers have been set up for observers.
    "They're big and they're loud," said David McCallum of
    Riverside, who stopped by to watch on Wednesday. "I love the
    concept of these operations, the work, the activity, what's
    involved. It's all very exciting."
    Associated Press Writer Kim Curtis contributed to this report.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

  • #2
    Speaking of the fire tornado, there was a picture in our local paper of that ealier in the week which was posted in one of the other threads. I can only imagine what the faces of the FFs who were looking at would be. Mine was in total awe of what the picture showed.

    Yesterdays radio news indicated that BC has two air tankers and air crews, on 8hr standby, with an additional 6 a/c (I think it was) on 24hr standby to move to assist.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

    "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

    "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

    impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

    IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.


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