In response to a proliferation of large fires throughout the far western US, Neptune Aviation Services has activated three BAe 146 air tankers, with just four day’s’ notice from the US Forest Service (USFS) under Call When Needed (CWN) agreements. The tanker activations took place with the conclusion of maintenance carding inspections of the aircraft by the USFS, following the agency’s exercising of the agreements with Neptune on June 18.
“Two of the tankers were immediately deployed to Twin Falls, Idaho, and Redmond, Oregon, due to fire conditions in those areas,” said Dan Snyder, Chief Operating Officer of the Missoula, Montana-based company. “The third has joined one of our P2Vs in Reno, Nevada, from which they are working on the Washington Fire. That fire has destroyed more than 16,000 acres, to date, near Lake Tahoe.”
Snyder added that a fourth Neptune-operated BAe 146 could be activated within days. “Assuming that all four go on duty this week, Neptune Aviation will have 11 aircraft actively engaged on fires.” That, he reported, would include a BAe 146 flying under an exclusive use contract in Alaska, as well as three P2Vs currently working the Lake Fire in Southern California, out of a USFS tanker base in San Bernardino, and also under exclusive use contracts.
The Lake Fire is, in fact, the largest inferno of the 2015 California fire season, so far, as it continues to burn through the San Bernardino National Forest, just east of Los Angeles. The fire, which broke out on June 17, has already scorched nearly 19,000 acres.
“After a slow start to the fire season, we are suddenly seeing an explosion of fires throughout California,” Snyder observed.
As fires in the western United States have proliferated, Rogers Helicopters of Fresno, California, has mobilized two Bell 212s for water dropping and fire fighter transport. “One helicopter is working on the Lake Fire out of Big Bear, while another has been deployed to Minden, Nevada,” said Robin Rogers, the company’s Vice President. He added that two of its Aero Commander fixed wing twin turboprops, used in air traffic command and control missions, have also been activated. One is operating out of Grass Valley, northeast of Sacramento, California, and another is working from the company’s Fresno base, on the Corrine Fire in Madera County, California.
“Unfortunately, the dire predictions regarding the 2015 fire season are coming true. Ongoing drought conditions are continuing to provide the greatest fire danger levels throughout the far western states, especially California,” said George Hill, executive director of the American Helicopter Services And Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA) in Washington, D.C. “Privately operated aerial tanker and helicopter companies provide the rapid response needed to meet the challenge of what is already becoming a season of multiple large fires. Contractual vehicles such as the CWN agreements allow the USFS to rapidly activate and employ all of the resources available.”
Neptune Aviation Services and Rogers Helicopters are members of AHSAFA, the Washington-based trade association representing the private aerial firefighting companies before Congress, the US Forest Service, and other agencies with responsibility for wild land management.