USA – The three DC-10 converted passenger jets currently being used to fight wildland fires around the western U.S. and right here on the Goodwin Fire this past week are massive.
Operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, the former widebody aircraft are called VLATs by fire agencies, and that stands for Very Large Air Tanker. They can drop 12,000 gallons of water or slurry in eight seconds, forming a line 300 yards wide and a mile long.
But that pales in comparison to the Global Supertanker. A converted Boeing 747-400, it can carry nearly 20,000 gallons, and can make drops the width of a football field and three miles long.
The 747 VLAT was developed by Evergreen International Aviation in Marana, which built two of a planned four-plane fleet of the monster airtankers. After spending millions to develop the system, Evergreen ran into a problem: the tanks and sprayers worked with water, but it needed to carry slurry, or fire-retardant, too and that is much heavier. The Federal Aviation Administration was concerned about the stress that would put on the aircraft.
In November 2013, Evergreen filed for bankruptcy.
Global Supertanker Services was formed in 2015 and it bought all the hardware used on Evergreens 747s and put the equipment into a newer airframe.
The drops cost about $27,000 each from the DC-10s, more from a 747, and the federal government in this case, the U.S. Forest Service pays for them.
And thats the problem. Although the 747, the largest airtanker in the world, has flown fires in Israel and Argentina, and was certified airworthy by the FAA last year, the Interagency Air Tanker Board has not certified it for use.
The Supertanker, based in Colorado Springs, received a six-month interim approval in January, but it hasnt yet been renewed.
On Thursday, the senior vice president and program manager at Global Supertanker, Bob Soelberg, said the company wasnt allowed to do any testing during that interim period, and they dont know why.
The primary purpose of the interim (approval) is so the ground crews, incident commanders, the firemen, as well as the lead plane of the air attack can observe the aircraft operate in live-fire environment, he said, and we were denied that.
U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Babete Anderson said, in an e-mail, In January 2017, the IAB provided Global Supertanker Services with a six month interim approval that expired June 15 to allow them to make modifications in their tanking system, which earlier tests indicated needed adjustment to ensure proper delivery of fire retardant, and provide information from missions they flew internationally.
Soelberg said, Right now, were in, hopefully, the final certification tests for the Forest Service. Theyre actually flying, as we speak, over in Lancaster, California.
Even so, Soelberg said, if the 747 is needed, the Forest Service does have the ability to ignore the testing process under the urgent and compelling clause, and put aircraft on contract. We would certainly welcome that.
Soelberg said that the government should realize that the VLAT concept works, given the fact that they had three DC-10s working on (the Goodwin Fire) at the same time.
He added that the Supertanker could be in Arizona this afternoon, if it were requested.
Pressed by the media at his visit to a shelter in Prescott Valley on Thursday, Gov. Doug Ducey said he is working with the agencies to get the 747 certified. He added that he wants all resources available on the fire, and does not want bureaucracy to get in the way.
The forest fire, which started on the night of June 24 and still smoldering in Spain’s southwestern region of Huelva, burned a total of 8,486 hectares, the Andalusian Regional Government said on Wednesday. Environmental spokesman for Andalusia, Jose Fiscal, confirmed the damage on his Twitter account. Over 2,000 people had had to be evacuated from hotels and campsites on the perimeter of the fire, he said. He added that the perimeter established around the fire was actually 10,900 hectares, but within that perimeter, 2,414 hectares of woodland were still intact. The fire damaged two protected areas: 6,761 hectares of Donana National Park, which has UNESCO protected status and is home to around 400 different species such as the threatened Iberian Lynx and Iberian Eagle, and 17 hectares of Laguna de Palos y Madres Nature Park. The Andalusian government believed that had it not been for the work of fire fighters, who at the height of the blaze numbered around 500, the damage would have been far worse for the 43,225 hectares of woods and scrubland. According to the regional government, temperatures were around 40 degrees Celsius when the fire began, with a wind-speed of between 30 and 40 km per hour (km/h) and gusts of up to 90 km/h at night, which helped propagate the flames and made it impossible to use aircraft or helicopters to fight the fire. A total of 50 firemen remain in the zone to continue the work of damping down and to ensure there are no flare ups, while investigations continue into the cause of the blaze. Authorities have not ruled out a human cause. Read full text at: http://eng.belta.by/society/view/spanish-forest-fire-burns-over-8400-hectares-in-and-around-national-park-102857-2017/ If you use BelTAs materials, you must credit us with a hyperlink to eng.belta.by.Tropical peat swamp forests, which once occupied large swaths of Southeast Asia and other areas, provided a significant “sink” that helped remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But such forests have been disappearing fast due to clear-cutting and drainage projects making way for plantations. Now, research shows peatlands face another threat, as climate change alters rainfall patterns, potentially destroying even forested peatlands that remain undrained.
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-06-peatlands-dwindling-losses.html#jCpTropical peat swamp forests, which once occupied large swaths of Southeast Asia and other areas, provided a significant “sink” that helped remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But such forests have been disappearing fast due to clear-cutting and drainage projects making way for plantations. Now, research shows peatlands face another threat, as climate change alters rainfall patterns, potentially destroying even forested peatlands that remain undrained.