Montana Outdoors

August 15, 2007

Aerial firefighting

For many years forest fires have been fought by air using helicopters dropping buckets of water and very large aircraft dropping huge amounts of fire-retarding slurry. The helicopters (like this one) can be based very close to the fire and attack quickly, filling their drop buckets from nearby lakes or rivers and if none are near, from water tanks set up by ground crews.

Fire helicopter

The large aircraft however, need a large airfield for refueling and refilling their tanks and usually that airfield is many miles away from the fire.

Recently small single engine aircraft have been added to the arsenal. They don’t carry as much slurry, but they need only a small airfield and can be deployed very quickly. They are now often used for immediate attack on new fires and on larger fires which are impossible to attack with the larger planes. There are several being used on the Chippy Creek fire and they are based at the small airfield in Plains Montana where they are only about 15 air miles from the fire. The sequence in the following 4 photographs demonstrates their use.

The huge plume of smoke in this photo coming from behind the peak is the result of the fire crowing in that area. The wind will fairly soon drive it over the ridge.

Chippy Creek fire

This is a close-up of the peak. Red from previous slurry drops can be seen on the bare rocky area. They are now dropping slurry ahead of the fire, on this side of the ridge. This probably means that the fire managers have conceded the ridge to the fire and are preparing an area on this side of it where they can start backfires and stop its progress at that point.

Chippy Creek fire

This little single engine slurry plane is headed for the area.

Fire fighting aircraft

Here is what his slurry drop looked like:

Chippy Creek fire

Here’s another photo of one of the planes from a different angle as he prepares a drop on a different section of the fire:

Fire fighting aircraft

And here is what his drop looked like:

Chippy Creek fire

These tiny aircraft seem to be very effective and I’ll bet they are a lot of fun to fly!

(These photos were taken on day 14 of the Chippy Creek fire in the Cabinet Mountains of Western Montana. It has now burned 82,160 acres or 128 square miles and is still growing.)

Ruffed grouse

Filed under: Birds, Environment, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Ruffed grouse — montucky @ 7:46 am

Yesterday while chasing the Chippy Creek fire I ran into this guy who was nice enough to pose for me. The Ruffed grouse is much smaller than the Blue and usually lives at lower elevations, usually in the thick brush of small canyons which earns them another common name around here (Brush Pheasant). He’s about the size of a medium to small chicken.

Once I was within 10 feet he decided to retreat. Even though I am 100 times bigger than he is, his retreat was accompanied by a strut and a swagger as he moved into the thick brush. If you don’t love a critter like that, you just don’t know what’s up in the outdoors!

Ruffed grouse

Ruffed grouse

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