Sunday, May 12, 2013

Spring? Summer?

Not really sure if it is summer already (we missed spring), or if this is still spring and more snow storms are on the way ;-(

At any rate, the first batch of large, slow mosquitoes are out, and the leaves are just starting to come out on the trees.

But one thing is sure – it IS the start of Fire Season!

In the past week I have visited a couple more fire lookouts in our area.

One of the lookouts is road accessible, after being opened with a cat, but I still needed 4wd to make it up the road on the muddy sections.


The next one is not road accessible, so we used a 212 helicopter to fly up the lookout observer, and his first batch of water and supplies. We worked on replacing damaged solar panels, and made sure all the lookout equipment was present and working properly.


Back over home – Shunda Fire Base


After the usual early season grass fires, the action has picked up quite a bit.  One of the first fires was just 10km from the base, and fairly close to the tower visited in the last blog posting.  It took a few days to get control of, then a more problematic one started near the town of Nordegg.

Being in difficult terrain including old logging slash, coupled with varied and changeable winds, it has been a challenge – making repeated attempts to escape containment.  Since it was close to this base, it created a lot of air traffic that was constant all day long, with frequent helicopter line ups for fuel, and regular deliveries to avoid running low.  Crews were also called in from more northerly locations where fire season has not yet arrived.

Bomber groups from tanker bases were constantly overhead, and water bombers were scooping water from nearby Abraham Lake to drop on the flames.

Around 12 different helicopters were my frequent visitors for a time.


The town has been under a 1 hour evacuation notice for several days now.  Very strong, gusting winds blowing toward the community have drawn in county and provincial law enforcement officers to assist in any evacuation should it be necessary.  Today, they almost outnumbered the residents.  Structural fire fighters from neighbouring communities are also all around, with large water tanks stationed at key locations.


Smoke is blanketing the town, from the fire, about 2km beyond the ridge.


Meanwhile, Hailey is watching all the action from her vantage point on the end of the de-activated runway.

Stay tuned …


  1. Amazing pics! Keep up the good work.

    Cheers! ~M

  2. Also, I can't tell if it's spring or summer either. Last week we had summer temps in the 80s and now today wind & rain. I can't keep up. Let me know when you figure it out, LOL!! ~M

  3. Those red things on the ground hold the water? They look so small. How large are they? Stay safe.

  4. I believe the 'bambi buckets', as they are called, hold between 240 and 350 gallons for a 212 helicopter, and with 5 of them in a circuit of perhaps 8 minutes to refill at a lake, they are moving a lot of water; and they have been doing this for days at a time.

  5. wow what a view from up there. Sure is sad the forest fires have started already

  6. Ah, a chance to get an "official" answer to a question I have had for several years. On some larger fire fighting helicopters, they have a long hose that drops from the helicopter, so they can hover over the lake surface, and suck water into internal tanks. My question is: is the pump located at the end of the suction hose? And how is it powered? hydraulic, air, electric? I'm guessing the suction hose is about 20 ft. in length. Thanks in advance.

    1. We haven't had any of those machines on the fire, but you can check out some photos on the link below. It looks to me that it is just a suction hose, but not sure how it is powered. Likely similar to a vacuum truck?
      One of the 'bambi buckets' in use on the fire has it's own pump, so it can be filled in very shallow pools, whereas the regular ones likely want at least 5-6' of water to safely dip. Hope this helps!