USA — Radio Hostess Lyons Filmer sat down with Caylyms Rick Goddard and the founder of Wildfire Research Network, Tony Morris to discuss the crisis facing California with regards to wildfire and the future of aerial firefighting.
Morris began the discussion noting the continued shortage of airtankers that has plagued wildland firefighters for years with no real affordable remedies on the horizon. He does see innovations such as Caylyms Guardian System as a welcomed addition to the firefighting tool-box. The Guardian is delivered using existing resources like the hundreds of Air National Guard C-130s currently based throughout the country. Placing these existing resources into the fight enable effective early attack efforts towards preventing mega fires and dramatically improving aerial response time for firefighters on the ground. This can be accomplished without spending one dollar on the purchase, refurbishing, or modification of any aircraft.
Goddard recalled that ten years ago one of the key drivers for development of the Guardian was the understanding that it is very costly to maintain an adequate fleet of single mission tankers that could deliver a significant payload in a timely fashion. Goddard saw the opportunity to fight fires using existing cargo aircraft by employing commonly employed military CDS (Container Delivery System) techniques which have been in use for decades. Think of it as each Guardian unit holding a giant metric ton rain drop explained Goddard. As the boxes, (six can fit into a C-27J and sixteen into a C-130), are deployed out the back of these large aircraft they open in an overlapping fashion turning these giant rain drops into a wonderful deluge which soaks the drop zone.
Goddard added that there are currently only eight U.S. based MAFFS (Mobile Airborne Fire Fighting System) equipped C-130s in the US, and that the crews and aircraft are often taxed during the height of the fire season. The need for more aerial assets is clear and the Guardian is immediately available to help fill the void. The perceived role for the Guardian would be different than the current MAFFS. MAFFS are deployed after local assets have been exhausted, whereas Goddard sees the Guardian being used much earlier, and in some circumstances as a first response option. Members of the EU have already adopted the Guardian; specifically Romania who is flying the C-27J Spartan. Last year, the Italian aircraft maker Alenia Aermacchi concluded a year long certification evaluation of the Guardian in collaboration with the Romanian Air Force. The Guardian exceeded all safety standards and also exceeded the standards for the density of the liquid which hits the targeted area.
When asked why we arent using the Guardian in the US, Goddard shared that Caylym is currently working with the appropriate government agencies, locally and nationally. The National Guard Association of the United States has even issued a resolution that calls for a CDS firefighting capability for its C-130 fleet to be adopted and fast tracked as soon as possible.
Goddard had a particularly frustrating experience last year. It was the second week of the RIM fires and Rick and his crew were getting ready to ship 400 Guardians to Italy from their assembly plant in Fresno. A few miles away the fires were burning out of control and those 400 units which represented the ability to drop over one hundred and five thousand gallons of water or retardant were being sent to Europe. “When the local assemblyman Jim Patterson got word of this shipment heading out of the US he asked if we could help here; though we were willing to help, there were approvals that needed to be cleared first. Caylym is willing to work with any State or Federal agency who may be interested in employing the Guardian CDS aerial firefighting system at any time.”
In conclusion, Goddard shared Caylyms commitment to being an integrated part of the current system and firefighting strategy. Our hope is that the Guardian can be used to attack fires more aggressively much like Europe does. In the US we have not had the ability to mobilize enough aerial firefighting resources, particularly during peak fire seasons that seem to be growing in duration and costs every year. For example, some estimate the clean-up and infrastructure recovery costs from last years Rim fires to be as high as $800 million. There are also long-term effects on ecosystems thousands of miles from our forest fires. New data from a Dartmouth study suggests that the ash and soot from North American forest fires are dusting the snowfields and ice flows in Greenland. This discolored ice and snow absorb and hold more heat which may lead to a premature and more extensive melting.
The air quality also plays a large role in the need to aggressively control forest fires, for instance when an acre of medium density fuel burns it can place around fifty tons of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. The amount of hydrocarbons released last year in the Santa Barbara fires is believed to have single-handedly reduced the gains achieved by the air quality initiatives made in California in the last ten years and likely for the next ten years.
Tony Morris reinforced that the data suggests that the wildfires globally contribute about 17% of the carbon loading into the earths atmosphere. Fighting fires is not just about extinguishing fires but it is about reducing the secondary effects of forest fires which are having a major impact on human health and our atmosphere.
Goddard said It is heartbreaking as a native Californian to see the devastation from wildfire occurring right here where I grew up while we are sending our systems and crews to support firefighters overseas. The Caylym motto is Save One Home.