Page 17 - UFRA Straight Tip Fall 2022 - Volume 23 Issue 4
P. 17

  Utah’s New
Aerial Wildfire
by Karl Hunt, FFSL PIO; Kayli Yardley, Fire Prevention and Fire Communications Coordinator; and Kelly Wickens, Fire Prevention Specialist
    This year another tool was added to the wildland firefighters’ toolbox when the State of Utah contracted two Type 1 helicopters. Aerial re- sources have become a standard tool to help with wildland fire suppres- sion. The current drought and wildfire risk within the state have shown the need for state fire managers to access these assets directly.
The addition of these helicopters is through an exclusive use contract with Croman Corporation. The contract will guarantee that these resources are used in the state and cannot be called away to assist on a
national level. The ability to deploy resources during the initial attack phase allows firefighters to limit the damaging effects of wildfire.
“This is a greatly needed addition to our firefighting toolbox here in Utah. Along with the assets provided by our federal partners, these heli- copters will improve our initial attack and large fire support capabilities,” said Mike Melton, the state’s aviation officer.
Through the contract, all agencies within the state will have access to the aerial resource. In addition, the new state aviation officer will work together with our interagency partners to deploy the aircraft to areas in the state with the greatest need.
Under the details of the five-year contract, each aircraft will be available for 90 days. Both helicopters are available for state use during the hot- test and driest months of the summer. The first aircraft will be available to the state annually in June through August, and the second in July through September.
The helicopters under contract are two Sikorsky SH-3 aircraft—a welcome sight on a wildfire. A Type 1 aircraft is the largest and fastest air resource available for fire suppression. Each aircraft can carry ap- proximately 800 gallons of water or retardant, and delivery is accurate when working directly with firefighters on the ground. One of the helicopters will be fashioned with a long-line bucket, and the other will have an onboard tank.
Fire managers’ primary concern is safety, as with any resources on an incident. In July 2022, a helicopter went down while assisting on the Moose Fire in Idaho. “In light of recent events, firefighter and public safety has always been and will continue to be our top priority,” said Brett Ostler, the state’s fire management officer. “While accidents hap- pen, we take steps to limit the chances of this occurring. An inherent risk is a part of fighting wildland fire, and it takes everyone to limit the risk to themselves, their fellow firefighters, and the public.”
These tragedies can allow firefighters and fire managers to learn how
to make the job safer for everyone involved. Through lessons learned, procedures and standards are implemented to promote safety on the fire line or in the air.
Utah’s new air resources are exciting for the state. State fire personnel continue to find ways to improve the resources available and the safety of all fire crews fighting wildland fires in the state.
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