How does Aerial firefighting work?

If you have ever been in the midst of a forest fire, or close to it, you are well aware of the aerial Firefighting aircraft techniques that are often used. Helicopters, airplanes, and other types of aircraft, can be seen high above you coming into help fight the fire. In most cases, this will happen intermittently, depending upon the fire season and how many aircraft are available. To understand why this is a valuable resource, you must first understand how aerial firefighting actually works to diminish the size of the fire and eventually put it out.

The Objective Of Aerial Firefighting

The first thing that you need to understand about aerial firefighting is the primary objective. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, it is not about putting out the fire completely. The purpose of the aircraft that are coming in is to dump what is called red retardant, on top of certain areas of the fire, to create what is called a fireline. This can be done by helicopter, although it is much more efficient when you are able to use large airplanes that have a much higher capacity for this material. The people on the ground need to be out of the way, and this will give them the ability to approach the fire safely and further circumvent the fire to eventually put it out.

Is This An Expensive Way To Fight Fires?

If you were to compare the cost of using this equipment to a standard job, it is certainly much more expensive. It can cost as much as $6000 per hour to operate many of these aerial vehicles. For example, the cost of using the red retardant comes in at three dollars a gallon. Assuming that you are using an air tanker, dropping 3000 gallons each time, it will cost $9000 just for the material drop alone. There is also the cost of paying the trained pilots, personnel aboard the craft, and the cost of renting the vehicle itself. If the vehicle is owned outright, the maintenance alone can cost tens of thousands of dollars for every airplane and helicopter that is used. In some cases, water can be used, which is very effective if you have access to a large lake or similar body of water nearby.

What Types Of Aerial Craft Are Used When Fighting A Fire?

There are two specific types of aircraft used during the fire. First of all, there are fixed wing aircraft which can be airplanes of various sizes. The other type include helicopters. Each one of them is designed for a specific purpose. For example, when you are dropping water or red retardant on the fires, the airplanes or helicopters that are used are different than those that will have smokejumpers dive into the fire from a high altitude. If you are using a team of rappellers, this is often designed in a way that will provide proper support for those lowering themselves to the ground. In particular, the Lockheed C-130 is an air tanker that is commonly used for firefighting due to its capacity and speed. All of these can be used when implementing the three techniques used to fight fires

Three Techniques Used To Fight Forest Fires

There are three techniques that are very common when fighting a fire. There is the direct attack technique which is the most common. This is where the planes and helicopters will approach the fire directly, dispersing water and retardant onto the flames themselves. Indirect attacks are also useful, allowing a perimeter to be set around the fire so that embers cannot be blown onto trees that will easily begin to burn. Finally, there are ground attacks, those that are coordinated by teams of individuals that have legions of firefighters willing to fight the fire on the ground.

Overall, these techniques that include both ground crews and aerial attacks can be very successful with most forest fires. There are certain instances, such as when the terrain is extremely steep, that only aerial attacks will suffice. As time passes, and as the consistency and number of forest fires continue to grow, more strategies will be developed. Overall, it is vitally important to have aerial firefighting techniques developed, and implemented, to quench the flames of forest fires as quickly as possible.

Chris Greenwood
Chris is the owner of the Greenwood Group, a Hubzone approved business, which specializes in leasing aircraft to local, state and federal government for a variety of purposes.

Chris Greenwood

Chris is the owner of the Greenwood Group, a Hubzone approved business, which specializes in leasing aircraft to local, state and federal government for a variety of purposes.