News & commentary about aerial firefighting, air tankers, and helicopters
Monday afternoon December 27 a fire southwest of Denver burned 152 acres and prompted evacuations.
The Oak Fire was reported around 2 p.m. southwest of Columbine, southwest of the C470 highway which was temporarily closed. West Metro Fire said it started near the C470/Kipling intersection west of the Westerly Apartments in an open space area with several trails and heavy foot traffic. The specific cause is still under investigation. The evacuations were cancelled Monday evening.
A single engine air tanker from CO Fire Aviation was mobilized from Fort Morgan, Colorado, flown by the company’s Chief Pilot Chris Doyle. The Air Tractor took off at 3:46 p.m. and 20 minutes later landed at Northern Colorado Regional Airport NCRA near Fort Collins to get a load of plain water which took about 10 minutes. It then made the 19-minute flight south to the fire where it quickly sized it up, dropped the water just before sunset, and returned to NCRA.
The fire was driven by strong winds. Buckley Air Force Base on the east side of Denver recorded 22 to 28 mph out of the south with gusts to 35 while the relative humidity was in the high 20s with the temperature in the high 30s. However it was cooler on the other side of the city at a higher elevation near the fire, judging from the ice seen on the landing gear in the photo above.
Firefighters always get a lot of satisfaction conducting a mobile attack. The videos below show how an engine drives near the edge of the fire while one or two firefighters operate nozzles while walking, sometimes one in front of the engine and another picking up what’s left behind the truck. Or a second engine could followup, making sure all the heat near the edge is extinguished.
Two strike teams have been ordered. Firefighters hitting flames near 470. pic.twitter.com/ym8LzFdYjy
The #OakFire has slowed somewhat, but it’s still being driven by strong winds. There are no air resources available in the region. Neighboring fire districts are assisting on the ground. Two buildings at the Westerly Apts have been evacuated. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/XwmpxkR8cW
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This drop was yet ANOTHER publicity stunt by either a Metro cheif or County Sheriff. Although structures were threatened early on in the fire, by the time the SEAT made it’s drop (of water) it was on a dead flank, far away from structures, next to a highway, with an engine a couple chains way and in an engine accessible area.
Not to mention this fire probably had 300+ people on it since it was a HUGE response typical of the front range.
Overall a worthless, unanchored water drop next to an engine to score Twitter points merely a month after a pilot was killed 60 miles to the north.
I agree with the comment from Louden. Aviation has no place for hero’s. It would appear that CO Aviation has a hard time saying NO!
Plain water? Only hero’s would post a picture of the tailwheel frozen like that. Lucky he didn’t lose directional control landing. Time to reel that outfit in.
So if you’re working a fire in the Southern Hemisphere, do you change direction of your rotation? And if you have an incident ON the Equator, then what?
CoFire does what they do because they love what they do. The best pilots in the world are with CoFire. It is the pilots choice to fly or not to fly, nobody is forced to do anything. Just because there was 1 fatal accident do you think the company should shut down? If that is the case than I think all highways need to be shut down because there is fatal accidents on them daily! If someone dies in the military they don’t shut down the military. Astronauts have been killed but their still sending people to space. Things can’t just stop!
Comments like yours Chris lead me to believe that you are with the company or are somehow connected to it, or you do not understand the safety culture of wildland fire aviation. As mentioned above when and where that drop occured gave little tactical advantage. Yes it is the pilot’s final decision, but having worked around many operators over the years, I can say that some companies have a culture that rewards unnecessary risk taking. And I am seeing an unfortunate pattern developing with this operator. Legit the first question anyone ordering the flight needs to ask is, is the flight necessary, and is there another way to do it on the ground. We should not be transferring risk on to pilots. What leads me to believe that this company does not have the culture to safely work in fire aviation is seeing them again flying in very windy conditions in the foothills only a month after one of their pilots did the same and was killed. Maybe they think they need to prove something, but not at the risk of killing people.
Is it necessary for you to drive to down the road? Other drivers are a hazard, road conditions may very, and I’m sure you have driven with not so great weather conditions. Take your own advice and stop worrying about what other people are doing when it does not concern you at all! Stay out of peoples lives and businesses and worry about yourself. You have no idea what happened that day or who called who or what conditions were like at the time of the phone call, and it’s not like a tanker plane can just change its mind and flip a U turn and go park. No it is easier and safer to finish a started job than to land a loaded plane with the extra 6400+ lbs of water weight on it and if they did an emergency dump to land some liberal tree hugger will be bitching about that in anyway possible and start a bunch of nonsense about it. This is why it’s so hard to make a living these days because everyone cries and sues
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