PPVRA
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Tanker Drops In Wildfires Often Just For Show

Tue Jul 29, 2008 5:19 pm



Quote:
Air tanker drops in wildfires are often just for show


The bulky aircraft are reassuring sights to those in harm's way, but their use can be a needless and expensive exercise to appease politicians. Fire officials call them 'CNN drops.'

By Julie Cart and Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers, Second of five parts
July 29, 2008


The deadly 2003 Cedar fire was raging through San Diego County. Rep. Duncan Hunter, whose home in Alpine would burn to the ground, couldn't understand why military aircraft hadn't been called in to fight the blaze. He decided to do something about it.

Hunter phoned Ray Quintanar, regional aviation chief for the U.S. Forest Service, and demanded that giant C-130 cargo planes be mobilized to attack the fire with retardant.

Quintanar explained that winds were too high and visibility too poor for aircraft to operate. Forest Service air tankers had already been grounded. But, as both men recall the episode, Hunter would not be dissuaded. He told Quintanar to call "Mr. Myers" and rattled off a Washington, D.C., phone number.

"Who's he?" Quintanar asked.

"He's the one with all the stars on his chest standing next to Don Rumsfeld," Hunter replied, describing Gen. Richard B. Myers, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

When Quintanar resisted, Hunter called Washington and pleaded his case directly with Myers. Over the next two days, six C-130 Hercules transports were dispatched to Southern California from bases in Wyoming, North Carolina and Colorado. The planes saw action once the weather improved, but in Quintanar's view they contributed little to controlling the fire.

Hunter says he has no regrets about his end run around the chain of command. "California was on fire, I got 'em the planes," he said in a recent interview. "That's my job."

To professional firefighters, though, it was a prime example of a "political air show," the high-profile use of expensive aircraft to appease elected officials.

Fire commanders say they are often pressured to order planes and helicopters into action on major fires even when the aircraft won't do any good. Such pressure has resulted in needless and costly air operations, experienced fire managers said in interviews.

The reason for the interference, they say, is that aerial drops of water and retardant make good television. They're a highly visible way for political leaders to show they're doing everything possible to quell a wildfire, even if it entails overriding the judgment of incident commanders on the ground.

Firefighters have developed their own vernacular for such spectacles. They call them "CNN drops."

Full story:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la...dfires29-2008jul29,0,5666042.story

Not surprisingly, really. These crooks will do anything to look good.
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SlamClick
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RE: Tanker Drops In Wildfires Often Just For Show

Tue Jul 29, 2008 6:58 pm

Sounds just a bit like diverting of government funds or assets for personal use. Seems he didn't do this when some other schmuck's house was in danger.

In general, air tankers are an important weapon in fighting wildland fires. You can get a few thousand gallons of Phos-Chek on the downwind or uphill side of a fire a hell of a lot faster than you can get a crew with hand tools to the same place. Ground crew will always be the backbone of the business but sometimes getting a fire knocked down a little bit really early on in better than a whole bunch later on.

Oh, and it's not the fire fighters' fault that CNN finds it easier and safer to shoot air drops from across the canyon than to get down on the line with the fire fighters. Besides, they can use that video year after year when they don't have any new video.  Sad
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dragon6172
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RE: Tanker Drops In Wildfires Often Just For Show

Tue Jul 29, 2008 8:34 pm

Will politicians ever let the professionals do their job. Unless you have some really good evidence that they are not doing it properly, butt the hell out!! Ask what they need, don't tell them what they need.

When I was a helo crew chief stationed in Japan we used to do bucket drops on range fires. To be effective we would literally come in low and slow, with the bucket maybe 5 feet over the flames, going not more than 5 knots, to make sure we got the water where we wanted it. The thing was, ground guys where not allowed off the trails, due to the chance of unexploded ordinance. So there were plenty of times we were trying to put out camp fires with a 25k lbs helo slinging a bucket of water. Low and slow was the best.
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L-188
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RE: Tanker Drops In Wildfires Often Just For Show

Wed Jul 30, 2008 12:43 am



Quoting SlamClick (Reply 1):
In general, air tankers are an important weapon in fighting wildland fires.

Agree completely, And they are very effective. Especially if the only way to get equipment and water into the side is on the EFF's backs.

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 1):
Oh, and it's not the fire fighters' fault that CNN finds it easier and safer to shoot air drops from across the canyon than to get down on the line with the fire fighters.

If I was fighting the fire I would get them the hell out of there too. Most reporters are too dumb to realize when their lives are in danger.

Quoting Dragon6172 (Reply 2):
Will politicians ever let the professionals do their job. Unless you have some really good evidence that they are not doing it properly, butt the hell out!! Ask what they need, don't tell them what they need.

Not an Eff'ing chance.
OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
 
AAR90
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RE: Tanker Drops In Wildfires Often Just For Show

Wed Jul 30, 2008 6:00 am



Quoting SlamClick (Reply 1):
Sounds just a bit like diverting of government funds or assets for personal use. Seems he didn't do this when some other schmuck's house was in danger.

In the Cedar Fire... no, it was government (specifically USFS & CDF) that was NOT fighting the fire even when military pilots were ready, willing and able (6 USMC H56's sat on the ground at KNKX for a week with full crews sitting in their ready rooms) to fight the fire. CDF ordered the Sheriff's Dept. helo to NOT put out the 50 sq.ft. fire even though the pilots believed (they had done it a dozen times already that year) they could put out the fire in 10 minutes with no additional assistance because... it was one minute past official sunset.... October in Ramona the sun actually sets 45 minutes after official sunset (it is a mesa). Hunter cut through the BS red tape and got the military assets that were already HERE in San Diego assigned directly to the firefighting agencies... who decided those pilots needed "training" to be "qualified" [USMC pilots fight fires every year on federal land and there is no qualification program or standard to be "qualified" to... even today]. That "training" was conducted the next week and consisted of USMC helos flying around talking on the radio in plain english: "move your drop 100 feet to the left of the guy in front of you." The USMC pilots said it was a complete waste of 3 DAYS where they could have been fighting the fires. They were only "qualified" AFTER the fires were put out by... CDF's contracted commercial acft.

Quoting Dragon6172 (Reply 2):
Unless you have some really good evidence that they are not doing it properly,

Yes... LOTS ! ! ! But none of it will ever make the news [a little bit locally, but nothing made statewide or national "news"]. CDF is now called CALFIRE, but it still doesn't know how to fight brush fires [last year's "success" was due to local agencies defying CALFIRE and fighting the fires on their own.

Quoting Dragon6172 (Reply 2):
So there were plenty of times we were trying to put out camp fires with a 25k lbs helo slinging a bucket of water.

Which is EXACTLY what the Sheriff's Dept. helo wanted to do: put out a small (less than 50sq.ft) fire using their 100gal bucket --something they are well (and regularly) trained to do... since we have small brush fires here every year.
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dragon6172
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RE: Tanker Drops In Wildfires Often Just For Show

Wed Jul 30, 2008 10:40 am



Quoting AAR90 (Reply 4):
6 USMC H56's

Is that a cross between CH-46's and CH-53's?
Phrogs Phorever
 
keesje
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RE: Tanker Drops In Wildfires Often Just For Show

Wed Jul 30, 2008 2:00 pm

It's our own fault, we want to be fooled by feel good impressions. Politicians who serve us best get ellected. We are too louzy to think further / look real good & the press is focussed on pleasing its customers too.

"Never mistake motion for action." Ernest Hemingway
 
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kc135topboom
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RE: Tanker Drops In Wildfires Often Just For Show

Wed Jul 30, 2008 3:16 pm



Quoting AAR90 (Reply 4):
Hunter cut through the BS red tape and got the military assets that were already HERE in San Diego assigned directly to the firefighting agencies... who decided those pilots needed "training" to be "qualified" [USMC pilots fight fires every year on federal land and there is no qualification program or standard to be "qualified" to... even today]. That "training" was conducted the next week and consisted of USMC helos flying around talking on the radio in plain english: "move your drop 100 feet to the left of the guy in front of you." The USMC pilots said it was a complete waste of 3 DAYS where they could have been fighting the fires. They were only "qualified" AFTER the fires were put out by... CDF's contracted commercial acft.

Wrong......

There is a training and qualification program that US military aircrews must complete before fighting a fire with aircraft. The dangers of flying low and slow, with visibilities down to zero, in mountainous areas will kill you. NVGs are worthless in fire fighting, aircraft radars are not accurate enough to operate low in mountainous ridges and valleys. There are thermols that must be flown through, as well as the rapid weight changes that effect aircraft attitudes and controllabliities. Why do you think USAF Argentina">FS aircrews have minimum flight standards to fly? Because outside those winds and visibilities have killed countless USAF Argentina">FS crews. A USAF or USMC crew is no better than a USAF Argentina">FS crew. Additionally, you have the issue of incompatability radios while working with cilivian command structures and termonoligy.

Quoting PPVRA (Thread starter):
Hunter phoned Ray Quintanar, regional aviation chief for the U.S. Forest Service, and demanded that giant C-130 cargo planes be mobilized to attack the fire with retardant.

Quintanar explained that winds were too high and visibility too poor for aircraft to operate. Forest Service air tankers had already been grounded. But, as both men recall the episode, Hunter would not be dissuaded. He told Quintanar to call "Mr. Myers" and rattled off a Washington, D.C., phone number.

"Who's he?" Quintanar asked.

Hunter should have identified Mr. Myers as Gen. Myers, USAF, CJCS. Was Hunter interested in using DOD assets before the fire threatened his own home? Apparently, the answer is NO.

Hunter is a republican, but in the case, he acted like a democrat.

Quoting Keesje (Reply 6):
It's our own fault, we want to be fooled by feel good impressions.

 checkmark 
 
AAR90
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RE: Tanker Drops In Wildfires Often Just For Show

Wed Jul 30, 2008 3:40 pm



Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 7):
Wrong......

There is a training and qualification program that US military aircrews must complete before fighting a fire with aircraft.

Sorry, I should have been more specific..... there was no CIVILIAN qualification program at the time and that has not changed to this date. The Witch Creek fire started in almost the same location as the Cedar fire and the military assets were assigned the day the Witch Creek fire started. Unfortunately, CDF (CALFIRE) said the military pilots were "not trained" so they were prohibited from being used. It took ALL San Diego congressional representative, both state senators AND the governor sitting in the head of CDF's office to get them assigned to the fires and when they were assigned, the CDF commander created a "local" requirement that they carry "spotters" and CDF had "no spotters available" --and didn't know how many would be available because it didn't know how many "qualified spotters" it had since it has no spotter qualification program to begin with. Another 24 hours wasted convincing CDF that there was no need for a "spotter" (unlike the civilian contractors, military crews have an established training program) but then the local commander decided the military pilots "speak a different language" and would have to be "trained" in the CDF's "technical jargon." Listen to any audio of air assets fighting fires in CA and you'll discover the only language being used is plain English... no codes, no abbreviations, nothing special. LOCAL San Diego agencies put the military acft to good use THE FIRST DAY.... without CDF approval. Damage and loss of life from last year's fires was so small because local agencies actually combated the fires instead of waiting for CALFIRE to make decisions.

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 7):
Was Hunter interested in using DOD assets before the fire threatened his own home? Apparently, the answer is NO.

Makes good press, but completely untrue. The area where Hunter's home is located was not threatened for almost a week and he was ACTIVE after the FIRST DAY ! ! !
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Arrow
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RE: Tanker Drops In Wildfires Often Just For Show

Wed Jul 30, 2008 3:56 pm



Quoting L-188 (Reply 3):
If I was fighting the fire I would get them the hell out of there too. Most reporters are too dumb to realize when their lives are in danger.

I've covered fires, and I'm still alive. Sorry, but this kind of myopic failure to understand the value of communications, including media, in saving lives usually results in tragedy and occasionally lives lost. You can slag CNN and the focus on the aerial war all you want, but people who are caught up in, and threatened by these fires are usually desperate for accurate information, and the TV is their best hope of getting it.

For a good blow-by-blow description of how f**cked up the response can get when the media is stonewalled -- or driven "the hell out of there" have a read of this assessment of the 2003 B.C. forest fire season. Notice, in the same report, how much better things went in the Kelowna version of the forest fires when an enlightened fire chief recognized that the media was potentially his best ally.

An excerpt:

In the early stages of this wildfire season, the flow of information from officials to the public and the media was an issue of great concern. The Review Team received presentations stating that the information pro-vided on specific fires was exaggerated and inaccurate. For example, concerns were expressed about media reports that claimed the town of Barriere had been destroyed. Similar concerns were expressed about reports of the it had not, and about structural damage in the town of Ashcroft, when none had occurred. Without doubt, hearing reports such as these caused great anguish, grief On the other hand, in the case of the Kelowna wild-fires, local and provincial officials worked diligently to keep the media and the public well informed. The CBC stated in its presentation to the Review Team: “Officials such as Mayor Walter Gray and Fire Chief Gerry Zimmerman told us everything they knew as soon as they knew it. Officials with the Ministry of Forests provided access to the Kelowna fire to dozens of reporters using a convoy of city buses.”

Communications section starts on P. 46, if you're interested.

http://www.2003firestorm.gov.bc.ca/firestormreport/default.htm

Most professional reporters just want to do a good job of telling people what the hell is going on, and usually appreciate whatever help they can get from the folks doing the job. They don't want to get in the way. But if they get stonewalled by some jerk who decides it's none of their business what's going on, they tend to get ornery and uncooperative themselves -- and they'll use whatever information they can get.

I use this incident and the report extensively in my communications courses.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
 
L-188
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RE: Tanker Drops In Wildfires Often Just For Show

Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:12 am



Quoting AAR90 (Reply 4):
n the Cedar Fire... no, it was government (specifically USFS & CDF) that was NOT fighting the fire even when military pilots were ready, willing and able (6 USMC H56's sat on the ground at KNKX for a week with full crews sitting in their ready rooms) to fight the fire. CDF ordered the Sheriff's Dept. helo to NOT put out the 50 sq.ft. fire even though the pilots believed (they had done it a dozen times already that year) they could put out the fire in 10 minutes with no additional assistance because... it was one minute past official sunset.... October in Ramona the sun actually sets 45 minutes after official sunset (it is a mesa). Hunter cut through the BS red tape and got the military assets that were already HERE in San Diego assigned directly to the firefighting agencies... who decided those pilots needed "training" to be "qualified" [USMC pilots fight fires every year on federal land and there is no qualification program or standard to be "qualified" to... even today]. That "training" was conducted the next week and consisted of USMC helos flying around talking on the radio in plain english: "move your drop 100 feet to the left of the guy in front of you." The USMC pilots said it was a complete waste of 3 DAYS where they could have been fighting the fires. They were only "qualified" AFTER the fires were put out by... CDF's contracted commercial acft.

There are stories like that all around when government agencies start to interact.

A few years ago my brother was on a state EFF crew. The Feds decided to to a timber burn over by Moose Pass, Alaska. It got away from them but it took them a week before they decided to swallow their pride and admit that they needed to call in state assets to help with it. That whole week my brother and the rest of the Type B crews where held on the station at Soldotna in case the call came.

They where put to work airating the law the helicopter lands on with Pulaski's.
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SlamClick
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RE: Tanker Drops In Wildfires Often Just For Show

Thu Jul 31, 2008 6:04 pm



Quoting L-188 (Reply 10):
with Pulaski's.

Hey, a McLeod makes six holes at once!

This was Alaska - couldn't they just walk around with crampons?
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