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Helicopter Fire-fighting (Merged threads)

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Helicopter Fire-fighting (Merged threads)

Old 6th Nov 2003, 04:32
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Try this

http://www.lacofd.org/airforce.htm

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Old 6th Nov 2003, 07:30
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Have done a bit in Aus' (Canberra last season was interesting!)
As others have said ... sometimes the helo is the only (best) way and they are effective. Realy works best when supported with good ground crews though. One thing I noted though was that the "heavy lifters" can & do cause a lot of damage at times with topsoil stripping. On steep terrain, dumping several tonne's of water in a concentrated area has quite an impact on the topsoil. Not an issue when weighed against life & property, but is when "environmental conservation" is the point.
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Old 7th Nov 2003, 03:01
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This is a response I posted to the same question on another aviation forum on the net.

1. Helicopters are extremely helpful at fighting fires, even small ("Type 3") helicopters, such as Hughes 500, AS-350, BH-206B's and L's. The principle role of small helicopters on fires is, at first, "initial attack." That is, when the fire is first reported, the helicopter is launched with as many as 4-5 fire-fighters plus pilot. The pilot lands the fire-fighters somewhere that is mutually acceptable, the bucket is hooked up and the pilot goes to fetch water while the fire-fighters start fighting the fire on the ground. In areas with sparse water supplies, helicopters may be equipped with a belly-mounted tank for the water, which is filled from a tanker truck or a little foldable tank set up near the fire.

A fire needs three things to survive: fuel, heat and oxygen. Helicopters fight fires by taking the heat out of the fire and reducing the temperature of the fuel below the combustible range.

With light fuels such as fast-moving grass fires, a LongRanger (L-3) with a 100-130 gallon bucket can often with one bucket load of water, put out from 50 to 100 feet of fire line in light fuels with a fast trail drop (moving forward at 20-40 kts).

Likewise, a couple of strategically-placed (vertical) hover drops may cool down a burning snag sufficiently to allow a crew to take a chain saw, drop it and buck it up. Take a larger helicopter like a Bell 205/Huey/212/214 ("Type 2") with a 300-350 gallon bucket and the effect is magnified. Still larger "Type 1" helicopters such as SkyCranes, Vertol 107's and 234's (Chinooks) can lift as much as 1500 gallons or more of water at time. That's a lot of VERY heavy rain if you're on the receiving end.

So, on most fires, helicopters don't actually "put the fire out." But, they support the ground fire-fighters to cool things down to manageable level. After the fire is established (such as the current ones down in SoCal), not only do the helicopters do initial attack, but then the helicopters go into a support role, moving fire-fighters here and there, and doing bucket work to cool the fire down and help retard its spread. Also, food, water and supplies are slung in to the fire fighters on a long line (usually 100-150') or, in grasslands, perhaps a short line.

Moreover, some helicopters are equipped with an aerial ignition device that dispenses ping-pong balls containing potassium permanganate and glycol, which about 3-5 minutes after they are mixed and dispensed, burst into flames to start back fires to "fight fire with fire." Some others still sling the old style 55 gallon drum filled with Aluma Gel and mogas, which when mixed together makes a civilian version of napalm. They have a cockpit control for an ignition/drip rate mechanism - same purpose: starting back fires. Or, controlled burns during the "off" season.

2. Most helicopters just drop water. However, increasingly, USFS and CDF contracts require the helicopter to be equipped with tanks for dispensing a chemical additive called "Phoscheck" which is a fire retardant foaming agent that gets mixed with the water. Most medium helicopters such as Hueys, BH-212's, 214's and those types carry a "foamy" tank.

When the bucket is dipped, the pilot punches a button or flips a switch and a little pump injects a user-selectable amount of foam concentrate into the water, usually 3-5 seconds-worth (maybe a quart or so) and as the copter flies to the target, the swirling of the water from the wind flowing over the bucket tends to mix the foam concentrate a bit. As the pilot drops the water, as it gushes out of the bottom of the bucket, it further mixes the foam concentrate with the water and it becomes sort of like watery shaving cream, thereby sticking to whatever it hits ... the thought being that it's better to have it stick for a while rather than immediately flow off the burning object and into the ground or down the hill (or tree).

Although the Red-dyed fire retardant has been tried in helicopter "tankers" now and again, no one seems to be using it on the Left Coast. The red fire retardant is ammonium nitrate (basically fertilizer) but is a great fire retardant. Because of the need for elaborate mixing apparatus and storage facilities, etc. it is mostly suited for airplane dispersal, where they can fly back to the same location each time to reload. Portable/mobile mixing and dispensing units have been tried over the years but never caught on for helicopters.

3. Of course there are limitations. Pilots who fly on fires (often those who log, also) are very familiar with operating in the HV curve. And with being constantly on the edge of, occasionally in, and quickly out of, settling with power. It can be very interesting if one attempts to drop the load of water with a heavily-laden helicopter while flying uphill and the bucket malfunctions, refusing to drop the water, thereby inviting settling with power. The winds can be strange and often the wind in one location is opposite what it is a few hundred yards away. Flying on fires helps develop one's sense of where the wind is and often knowing this well, and the effects of terrain on wind makes the difference between "riding the updraft" up the side of a mountain, or having to circle to climb up.

One can't fly too low when dropping water, unless it is a fairly speedy trail drop otherwise the rotor wash will fan the fire, cover the ground troops with hot, sooty debris and not endear the pilot with anyone on the ground, especially the Incident Commander (the "boss" of the fire). Since we mostly fly with the door(s) off when doing bucket work, it is necessary for a fire pilot to have pretty good vertical reference flying skills when dipping, dropping and doing external load work. The typical Type 2 helicopter (Huey sized) has the bucket on a 100+ foot long line.

Naturally, it demands a pretty good amount of attention to monitor as may as three or four frequencies simultaneously, keep an eye on the gauges, look out for other traffic on the fire and always be looking for an "out" in case of an emergency. It's demanding, occasionally exciting, rewarding flying, plus there's a lot of comraderie among those who fly in the fire services.

I hope this helps you understand a bit more how we fight fires from helicopters. Tailwinds.
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Old 7th Nov 2003, 12:34
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Great post man, welcome to Rotorheads.
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Old 7th Nov 2003, 17:16
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Small helicopters can be useful in putting out minor grass fires. I spent around an hour, many years ago, just hovering along the edge of a large grass fire, simply blowing it out.
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Old 8th Nov 2003, 10:06
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Fltpro

Welcome to Rotorheads and thanks for a superb first post - the first of many I hope.

Heliport
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Old 9th Nov 2003, 00:57
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Firefighting Helicopters

I am sure you have read the thread so ditto... check out www.ericksonaircrane.com for a shot of what they do, all over the world as I understand.

I am sure there are other sites, this is just one that I have seen.
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Old 9th Nov 2003, 21:23
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Fire fighting Helicopters

fltpro

A comprehensive and interesting read and definately enlightening.

I could but help to think in your last paragraphs, when you were talking about limitations and hazards, that the helo's that have been brought into the thread are jet helo's. The 206, 350, 212 etc.

Mostly single engined helo's. A consideration.... Just like the fire on the ground needs the three elements in the fire triangle to keep it burning, so does the jet engine.

I understand that fire fighting is best done by helicopters (as the maths show - Tokoloshe) but there must be associated hazards that fltpro did not mention, like flameouts. I would suspect that even in a twin there is a good chance of a double flameout.

I mean there must be so much going on in the pilots mind, and then having to deal with an emergency like that... I take my hat off to you guys. Keep the good work up.


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Old 5th Dec 2003, 09:20
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There's a good article in the current issue of Heli-Ops about the risks of flame-out when fire-fighting.
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Old 6th Dec 2003, 06:14
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Sling Tank

http://www.ericksondownunder.com/

Any downunder fire pilots care to comment on their experience with this system?

Weight, reliability, cost, truth in advertising, etc.

We are always looking for an alternative to the Bambi.

Jim
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Old 6th Dec 2003, 06:14
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Sling Tank

http://www.ericksondownunder.com/

Any downunder fire pilots care to comment on their experience with this system?

Weight, reliability, cost, truth in advertising, etc.

We are always looking for an alternative to the Bambi.

Jim
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Old 6th Dec 2003, 08:09
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Arrow

Jim,

PM me for the details. Our's was the only medium using the sling tank last season, so we had a fair swag of teething problems, but they are just about solved. Got the latest mod. bucket last month, and tested it last week.
The fifth pic in the gallery was me on the Hydro Majestic fire last December.

Concept is excellent, especially the selectable load (increase water lift with fuel burn), the selectable drops, and the self contained foam system. Many of the troops thought there was a bucket fault when we'd drop half a load in one spot, then the rest elsewhere! Obviously packs down into significantly less space than an equivalent Bambi + Sacksafoam, and not having the Sacksafoam on board is another plus. Flies well, now quite stable during drops, and fills quickly, including bottom fill in shallow water. More wiring needed to control the system (6 core cable to carry all the functions down to the control head), but the latest cockpit control includes a download function, giving a print out of number of drops and amount dropped, handy to include on those daily/weekly reports to the fire service

We still carry a Bambi as a spare, until the system is totally proven, then I'll get a second DUFAS. Sorry, Sling Tank

Last edited by Heliport; 8th Dec 2003 at 00:15.
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Old 8th Dec 2003, 00:16
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Impressive picture John.

I thought we ought to see it.

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Old 8th Dec 2003, 11:10
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nice photo john,

I was about 2 helicopters behind you in that shot, at one stage we had 6 helo's if my memory serves me ( 2x 117, as350, b206, Crane, and a K-max) working that one spot, it was very close to the building as you see.

worst still we were all staying in the hotel there, and all our clothes and gear was in the room!!

it was a hectic afternoon and im sure john agrees with me.
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Old 8th Dec 2003, 12:38
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Arrow worst still we were all staying in the hotel there

BT,

The hotel manager was in all our rooms, pulling the curtains for us, and burnt his hand quite badly when he touched the glass.

The complimentary bottle of beer from the hotel was such a magnanimous gesture
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Old 8th Dec 2003, 12:52
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John,

I hope the beer was atleast COLD
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Old 9th Dec 2003, 13:18
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THE BEER WAS COLD AND TASTED GREAT AFTER A FUN DAY FIGHTING FIRES.
CHEERS MIKE.
PS. A WARM BEER IS JUST AS GOOD AS A COLD BEER WHEN YOU DONT HAVE A COLD BEER.
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Old 6th Oct 2010, 23:38
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Just had this one e-mailed to me by the lookout fire fighter on a ridgeline when I did this burnout two days ago... This is the Giraffe Creek fire on the S.E. Idaho/Wyoming border, about two hours after the pic above with the crane and L4 in it.

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Old 6th Oct 2010, 23:59
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why ping pong balls instead of drip torch ??
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Old 7th Oct 2010, 01:57
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407 too

why ping pong balls instead of drip torch ??
We have both at our disposal as can been seen in the previous pictures. The particular piece we burnt off was to hold the fire to the South. There was a lot of dead and down in the unit, and we had made an initial decision to not burn that day. Then with about 2 hours of daylight left, the conditions became perfect for a burnout....this was on a Sunday, and did not have a fuel truck close by with gas and diesel, but due to the fuel type, we figured it would work with the balls... As it turned out, the balls worked just fine, we got a head fire ripping along the slope and were able to slow it down and stop it with a saw line, that we black lined by hand, wetted down with the crane and thickened with two lines of balls.

In this next pic, you can see the main head fire on the left, and our holding line just taking on the right with the crane about to wet line and hold it. The two fires sucked in and surprisingly, it held on the ridge top.



My guess is that most people have no clue what I just explained.....But it was a near perfect burnout.
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