View Full Version : Fire Mismanagement?

Hell Man
22nd Jul 2011, 08:45
During the last four weeks, two powerful Blackhawk helicopters have sat on the ground at the Santa Fe airport. Inside a National Guard hangar nearby, a room full of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of firefighting equipment has been collecting dust while the largest fire in New Mexico burns close by.

The Las Conchas fire has burned over 240 square miles in the Jemez Mountains.

Officials explain why Blackhawks were grounded for Las Conchas fire | KOB.com (http://www.kob.com/article/stories/S2206639.shtml?cat=504)

22nd Jul 2011, 15:03
Hey Hellman----where ya been? Hopefully enjoying a life of fishing and relaxing these days....

Seems like the guard guys are getting upset.....It is law...

Firefighting is not an inherently governmental function, nor a military mission. Current Federal policy does not advocate competition between the Federal and private sectors. Existing law permits federal goods and services to be used whenever, in the judgment of the federal agency head, the resources cannot be provided as conveniently or cheaply by commercial contract.

There are also the reasons not posted:

1. Has anyone even begun to estimate the cost of operation of the UH-60's (or bigger) per hour in comparison to gallons of water/phos-check dropped per hour? And, (and that's a BIG "and") when the Guard pilots are lucky enough to actually get the water ON the fire! Even in the posted video they were inside the "black" and the fire was burning outside their line.

2. It is my understanding that Guard pilots do not need to have the same experience requirements as civilian contractors to do the aerial firefighting job. In the civilian sector we are required to have a minimum of 1,500 hours just to get carded, let alone all the recurrency requirements. The guard pilots do not meet these minimums. On the San Diego fires, the highest time guard pilot only had 700 hours flight time.

3. It has been proven time and time again that a well-run civilian contractor can do the same job for less cost to the government than using military assets. Witness the contract USN VERTREP program in the Mediterranean, which slashed costs to the government by almost 50% when they put it out to bid to civilian contractors.

4. Back in 07 on the San Diego fires, I baby-sat (flew heli coordinator ) for 3 groups of military black hawks, which constantly broke down, could not put the water where the folks on the ground needed it, and their operation required over 60 support personnel. I shudder to think what that cost the government for each gallon of water delivered..........

All in all, I have no beef with them but these guys are NOT trained to fight fire----they are trained to fight wars. I would be pretty useless flying in a war zone, and have no desire to do it......in the same token, they should stay out of fire.

22nd Jul 2011, 17:39
The way I understand the law is; the military can only be called in when there are no civil assets available for aerial fire fighting.

In Oklahoma the military (National Guard) is use quite often as there are extremely limited civilian aerial fire fighting assets. Our National Guard Air Unit have Blackhawks and Chinooks. I've watched them while they were in action dropping water on a very large grass fire near my son's farm and on TV, they're pretty damn good.

Apparently they have 'target of opportunity' authorization. Two Chinooks were en-route to a grass fire after a water pick-up in a local pond when they spotted a new small grass fire that was rapidly approaching a home and out buildings on a farm. The farmer and his son were attempting to fight the fire with water hoses, to no avail. The Chinooks diverted and dropped the water they were carrying on the fire, knocking the fire back enough that the farmer and his son could control the fire until ground assets could arrive and the farm home and building were saved. A local TV News helicopter just happened to be following the two Chinooks and filmed the whole thing.

Actually, about the only civil aerial assets we have here are cropdusters, so the National Guard gets involved early, therefore, they have a lot of practice.

Hell Man
22nd Jul 2011, 18:05
Everything Gordy says is right but, as someone with many years service with USFS, it is my belief that in the long-run we do ourselves a disservice by discounting more frequent utilisation of the NG assets.

Yes the are expensive, yes they are inexperienced but I would like to see them encouraged to participate more frequently so that on that day (God forbid) when a sixth of US forests are burning we have a fighting chance.

To me, the reason the NG isn't a viable proposition is exactly because they don't have the experience and there's only one way to change that - to bring them in - not as the last resort but somewhere before. Its just my view.

Gordy: Fishing! It seems you're checking-up on me. Recently returned from one week Salmon fishing in Kenai Southcentral Alaska with my eldest son!