Airborne Fire Disaster Controlby the RussianCivil Defense Organization
(IFFN No. 11 – July 1994)
Forest fires inflict serious damage on the national wealth of all countries. Fighting of fires demands much human effort and considerable economic resources. All of us have either taken part in or witnessed these events. As for our own experience, the most mobile means to suppress disaster-type forest fires is the use of aircraft. Many countries are also paying increasing attention to the development of these facilities.
The Russian Federation, which has a great amount of forest resources, suffers from heavy losses caused by forest fires. Due to this kind of disaster we lose as much timber as we use for the needs of the economy. The priority mission is to improve this situation. The Ministry of Russian Federation for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM of Russia) considers the use of heavy fire-fighting aircraft units as one of the decisive means to combat fires.
At present the introduction of a version of the Illusion IL-76TP aircraft (maximum take-off weight: up to 190 tons), is in process. A standard aircraft IL-76MD is equipped with two detachable tanks for 44 tons of fire-extinguishing liquid. According to aircraft engineers a IL-76 may carry even three tanks with a total capacity of 66 tons. However, this option is still to be investigated.
The performance characteristics of the aircraft are as follows. After approaching a wildfire site the plane is flying at an altitude of 40 meters or more. The fire-extinguishing mixture is being discharged over the fire front within 3 – 5 seconds. The area covered by simultaneous discharge of the whole load is 550 x 100m. When a successive discharge is used the area covered by extinguishants will be 600 x 80 m. The water or retardant coverage exceeds 2 or more l/m2. Time needed for filling the tanks by pumps is 35 minutes. Fuel endurance of a filled and equipped plane is 5000 kilometres. The aircraft can be based on airfields with a take-off runway of 3000 m and must withstand the pressure of 7,5 kg/cm2.
Comprehensive tests of the plan were carried out in the years 1989-92. They included its application in real action. The valuable results gained in these tests are laid down in the further development of this fire-fighting project.
In August 1992 the plane made 22 flights to extinguish forest fires in the Moscow region. Thus, its efficiency was proved in fighting crown fires. The suppression of surface fires demands more accurate manoeuvring of the plane at the drop site and more frequent flights or use of several aircraft.
The plane was also engaged two times with a total of 9 flights in extinguishing fires of man-made structures. These operations proved its efficiency in mountainous regions and when fighting fires at the Army ammunition depots in the vicinity of Yerevan (Armenia) and in Vladivostok region (Russia). The use of a fire-fighting aircraft was the only way to deal with a disaster of this kind. Frequent explosions of the burning ammunition did not allow the ground fire brigades to approach the fire front. Discharging water from the plane promoted cooling of the object and impeded the spread of the disaster.
The tests and combat application of the aircraft showed its basic tactical and economic features. It is important to note that the costs of aerial fire fighting by using the IL-76 per 1 hectare at a distance to the fire site of more than 300 km proved to be twice or even more times less than other available aerial systems.
In September 1992 EMERCOM of Russia ordered from the industry a series of 5 water bombing units and 2 filling devices. This equipment is placed in reinforcement for the State Central Airmobile Rescue Team (TSENTROSPAS) of the EMERCOM. The water-bombing unit can be installed in any standard IL-76MD aircraft within 2-3 hours. The filling device provides the option to prepare and fill special fire-extinguishing solutions and to speed up the filling. The use of “Putidoil” solution provides the application of the plane for response to environmental disasters such as oil spills on sea. As for forest fire-fighting, water only is used in Russia in order to avoid negative impacts on the environment. Nevertheless the tanks could be charged with any other mixture.
From:Dimitri Lobanov Address: Ministry of Russian Federation for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM of Russia) Teatrainy proezd, 3 RU – 103012 Moscow