WORKING WITH OTHER PERSONEL
The objective of our program is to quickly knock down or greatly reduce the size of wildland fires, which in turn, will minimize threats to life and property. Reducing the size of wildland fires will also decrease the risk to Fire Fighters and other emergency response personnel assigned to the incident. This policy is consistent with the Department’s mission.
During daylight hours, the Department staffs four helicopters from our fleet of a Type I (Sikorsky Firehawk) and Type II (Bell 412) helicopters. The designations for our Type I Sikorsky S70-A Firehawk helicopters are Copters 15, 16, and 19. The designations for our Type II Bell 412 helicopters are Copters 11, 12, 17, and 18.
Three of the helicopters are configured as air squads with the ability to respond to either EMS or fire calls. Standby locations are Eastern Air Ops (EAO), Camp 8, and Fire Station 129. The helicopter on standby at Camp 8 responds with a fly crew when dispatched to fire incidents.
Beginning July 1, an additional helicopter, usually a Sikorsky Firehawk, is staffed as a dedicated fire ship. The fire ship will respond on all first alarm brush fires from its standby location at Camp 9, Barton Heliport, or Camp 2 with a fly crew and Division Qualified Camp Superintendent.
On high fire danger days, an average BI at 153 or above, Copter 10, our command helicopter, a Type III Bell 206 Jet Ranger, and a fifth water dropping helicopter may be staffed depending on helicopter availability.
It is the Department’s intent to fly two fly crews to every first alarm brush fire. Depending on helicopter standby locations and other incidents, there may be less than two fly crews on the initial response. The Incident Commander (IC) verifies through Command and Control the number of fly crews dispatched to their incident.
Because fly crews cannot check in like other ground resources, the IC monitors the Command Net, or the Air-to-Ground Net if a communications plan has been requested, so the fly crew supervisor can check-in and communicate their insertion location. Incident commanders establish them as a priority for the initial water drops so that they can establish an anchor point from which to work safely.
This pilot program places a Division Qualified Camp Superintendent on the fire ship with the fly crew. The Air & Wildland Division Assistant Fire Chief was designated to:
Camp superintendents were selected to participate in the program because of their division/group supervisor qualifications. All were given the following directions:
The Department encourages all Initial Attack IC’s to utilize this asset to assist them with the management of wildland incidents.
The Helicopter Coordinator (HELCO) is an ICS airborne position responsible for managing helicopters in and around the fire, with specific emphasis on controlling and directing helicopter water dropping operations. Following the IC’s incident objectives, the HELCO directs the tactical efforts of all helicopters assigned to the incident. It is essential that the IC monitor the Air-to-Ground Net from the time of dispatch. The HELCO role is fulfilled initially by one of the pilots in an assigned water dropping helicopter. When available, the HELCO role may be fulfilled by the Department’s command ship, Copter 10.
Another program instituted last season was the addition of a Fire Officer flying with HELCO. Once on-scene, HELCO notifies the IC that Copter 10 has arrived with a Fire Officer aboard. In this configuration, the pilot will direct air-to-air operations and the Fire Officer will:
Copter 10 is staffed with a Fire Officer (HELCO) when the average burning index reaches 153 and above; there are high fire activity levels; upon the arrival of the SuperScoopers. On larger incidents, the Air Tactical Group Supervisor (ATGS) may direct HELCO to manage all helicopters on the incident while the ATGS manages all the fixed-wing air resources.
There is no change to the Department’s current helispot assignment policy as it pertains to our Type II Bell 412 helicopters. The Type I Sikorsky Firehawk helicopters have the capability to snorkel from moving and static bodies of water and this is the preferred method for filling. If the Firehawk is unable to snorkel, or it is determined that the snorkel sight is too distant from the incident, it may resort to ground filling operations or snorkel from portable water tanks (pumpkins).
Due to the increased rotor-wash produced by the Firehawk, it may be necessary to establish a separate “heavy helispot.” It is the responsibility of HELCO to coordinate with the IC the establishment of any additional heavy helispots that may be needed to support the incident’s air operations.
If a heavy helispot is not established, the Firehawks must refuel at the helispot used by our Type II helicopters. Personnel should be aware that Firehawks refuel on the opposite side from the Bell 412’s and that their pattern into and out of the helispot is reversed.
A new Helicopter Water Source Directory has been developed and delivered to all Fire Stations, and includes instructions on how to support these portable water tank systems. Battalion Training Officers are encouraged to contact the Captain at Air Operations to schedule training on these systems if needed.
Our Department will again be using two CL-415T SuperScooper aircraft on a seasonal lease. This lease agreement will again be made with the Province of Quebec, Canada. The tentatively scheduled standby dates are October 1, 2005 through December 31, 2005 from 0900 to 1800 hours daily at the Van Nuys Air Tanker Base.
This program provides for a joint response of the three closest available water dropping helicopters to all first alarm brush fire incidents. Within our jurisdiction the usual response is two LAC helicopters and one LFD helicopter. The Fire Station Order (FSO) file permits the Computer-Assisted Dispatch (CAD) system to identify the closest helicopters that are available for a brush fire.
In the month of August, the Los Angeles Fire Department anticipates having a dedicated Helitanker on standby at their Van Nuys heliport.
An agreement between our Department and the Angeles National Forest (ANF) provides for a Helitanker on contract with the Angeles National Forest to be based at the Van Nuys Air Tanker Base. This season’s Helitanker is a Model S-64E (Erickson Air-Crane Co., L.L.C.). Because it is a national resource, it may be unavailable for incidents in the Department’s jurisdiction. The scheduled standby dates are June 15, 2005 through October 12, 2005 from 0900 to 1800 hours daily.TYPE I AND TYPE II FIXED-WING RETARDANT TANKERS
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has contracted for 17 heavy air tankers this season. Seven P-3 Type I air tankers, nine P2V Type II air tankers and one DC-7 Type I air tanker have been awarded contracts. USDA air tankers are considered a national resource and their movement is subject to fire activity and projected need nationwide. CDF will have up to twelve S-2T Type II air tankers in the South Operations-GACC on an as needed basis per their availability. Air tankers dispatched to LAC wildland fires may be either USFS or CDF aircraft depending on availability.
Airtankers drop fire retardant instead of water with foam. Retardant may be used for direct attack on a fire; however, it will normally be used in a flanking action or indirect attack, by pre-treating/painting a ridge to slow or extinguish the advancing fire. The turnaround time for an air tanker is dependent on the distance from the incident to the closest tanker base used for refilling retardant. The closest air tanker reload facility to most of LAC is Fox Tanker Base in Lancaster. CDF air tankers will be experimenting with a gel type retardant this season in lieu of the normal retardant used for the last several years.
A new resource to the aerial fire fighting mission is Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATS). SEATS are essentially crop dusting aircraft that have been modified to carry retardant. With the reduction in the number of heavy airtankers, more SEATS are being contracted by the Federal Government. The retardant capacity of SEATS is between 400 and 800 gallons. On several occasions last season, SEATS dropped on wildland incidents in the Angeles National Forest.
Fly crews are restricted from flying in wind speeds greater than 40 knots with a gust spread of greater than 15 knots, as reported by Remote Automated Weather Stations (RAWS). If the fly crew is unable to fly, they shall be made available to Command and Control and can be dispatched as a ground crew in addition to the already designated ground crews on the brush fire. Water dropping operations during windy conditions is at the pilot’s discretion.
Helicopter night operations by our Department are based on risk versus gain for the fire or EMS mission, with the final decision being made by the pilot. A guideline for decision making is a clear departure and approach area, with 500-foot ceiling and three miles visibility. Chief and company officers should give the utmost consideration to risk versus gain when requesting air support during hours of darkness. An appropriate evaluation of any potential threat to lives and structures should be considered, and when appropriate, air resources should be requested. If not needed, the aircraft should be canceled as soon as possible.
As a reminder, helicopters are not dispatched as part of a brush assignment during hours of darkness and must be special requested by the Incident Commander following an evaluation of the conditions mentioned above.
The Forestry Division is responsible for managing the infrared imagery unit in cooperation with the Air Operations Section. This system does videography of “hot” areas of a fire, can downlink real time imagery, and has the ability to map a fire incident using a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system. Although this tool can be used at any time, its ability to read hot spots is optimal during early morning hours just after sunrise in order to maximize the cool night temperatures and heat of a fire. The infrared and GPS unit is mounted on Copter 10 and is used in conjunction with the Forestry IR/Mapping Van. This resource is available on request through Command and Control.