Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And, back out again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Back to Yosemite. What a Summer. Annamarie has had to do it all by herself except for 6 days total since school was out, now for another two weeks. Oh well----I'll be back for the reunion. RBG---you might consider planning a night or two outside. The Perseid meteor shower should be spectacular this year, peaking about the time you get there

Comic-con San Diego

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I have never been. Many of the folks that work for San Diego Fire moonlight as security for the hotel attached to the convention center, including someone on our crew.
He said the entire thing was a freakshow. The best story he had was at the hotel bar----Chewbacca got into a near-brawl with this.....thing. It had on a purple band coat with huge epaulets and gold buttons, a kilt, wolf legs and a wolf's head. Ring a bell for anyone? He was holding two scimitars too. Anyway, it was about to come to blows, when (I kid you not. This is the way the story was told, anyway) Wonderwoman stepped in.
The amazing thing was throughout the whole ordeal, everyone stayed in character. I can see that---Chewbacca wanting to rip an arm off. Wonderwoman playing the peacemaker. The wolf/Sgt. Pepper/samurai thing doing whatever it is it does in a bar fight........

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Back to my day job

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This morning was rare for me---I didn't want to go to work. Training new people, getting caught up with my Battalion Medical Officer duties, all the stuff that piled up while I was gone, and a rather ominous issue.....Showed up in trudge mode just wanting to get tasks over with.
This girl, sometime during the night, drove her car aff a steep cliff and got banged up pretty bad. Someone at the Torrey Pines reserve heard it happen but no one spotted anything until daylight. Her car is in the ravine to the right, bent in half. She somehow got to the top of that slough you see to the left of the dead tree; there's a State Lifeguard with her. It was a good response---it would have been very, very difficult to get her out from the ground---you'd have to set up a system to lower her down to a spot then another system to get her up to the road, and she certainly needed to get to a trauma center quickly.
The Lifeguard, who happened to be an RN, and the two firefighters that rappelled down then scrambled up helped get her all packaged up right there on the cliff face. From the time Bobby got the rescue hook to me until we were at the hospital was about 4 minutes.
Good to be back. That was hoist rescue #50. When I get to 100, I'm leaving.


Friday, July 25, 2008


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The whole time I was gone, this is exactly what I was "rather be doing". Annamarie gave me a honey-do list, and made a longer one for herself. As soon as we were done, we put McKenna in charge and left.
Loaded the tandem in the Subaru and made the hour drive for the coast. We stopped where the beach traffic started and began the ride-maybe 12 miles or so until we got to "World Famous", (Have you heard of it? I'm sure you must have, since it's world famous) and had typical tourist area fare. Not that great but I didn't care. We did a bit of clothes shopping, which is great on with the bike since you can't carry very much. Got home and hung out on the pavilion enjoying each other and drinks, and the garden.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Released to go home

Had the option to sit around in Sacramento courtesy of the California taxpayers, or head home and remain available for callback if needed. THere are plenty of private copter resources in the state now so the need for the military copters is dimished.
One last thing about Byron's pink flamed copter. My crew on M70 took a lot of ribbing and questioning of their orientation becuse of the pink paint, from a lime green painted blackhawk crew. My crew took it in stride. When they asked me for the pink paint and rollers, I just assumed it was to touch up our paintjob....
Instead, they crawled under the lime green balckhawk and painted, in big letters, "We're g-- and lovin' it" on the belly. Everyone could read it----the helibase, the people on the fire, the residents---everyone but the blackhawk crew. They were inside flying the thing.
Cannot confirm or deny who painted that on a military helicopter. I can confirm that it went unnoticed by the crew until they returned to Sacramento

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Military Helicopter Manager (MHEM)

Got through the last of the tasks in my MHEM taskbook today, filling the HELCO position (If you are flying in to a fire, you contact the Helco, or helicopter coordinator, to announce your arrival and keep control of the airspace. If you arrive first, you become Helco until a real Helco arrives) It was chaos, but it didn't take too long to figure it out. I was kind of hoping they'd send me home after my task book was signed, but they immediately assigned a copter (044, here from Louisiana)and crew so we're initial attack, which means if there are any big new starts in the state we scramble and go. Getting released to go home would be awesome. Getting sent IA to a fire would be great. Hanging out in Sacramento just waiting for the rest of the week would stink

Don't run away, we are your friends

I rarely, rarely watch movies. Annamarie and I have seen three movies in theaters since we were married--Titanic, Shakespeare in Love, Something About Mary, oh and Forrest Gump. I guess we've seen four, my bad. When I see a movie at work (rare) or hotel (more rare) I always think who I'd like to watch that particular movie with.
Being John Malkovitch---My brother Jim. Defending Your Life---My Mom. Miss Firecracker and Doc Hollywood---Annamarie.
The best one by far and my biggest movie viewing regret---not watching "Mars Attacks!" with Lee. I imagined driving home pointing at stuff saying nothing but ack ACK! ACK! ack.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Busy days

On the same day President Bush surveyed the fire, we had some water dropping missions deep in a canyon. At the same time the Martin Mars Superscooper was dropping water on a ridge, so we had to be really heads up on the flight space issues. Early the next day Byron's pink flamed helicopter got sent to Chico. I got sent to Mather base in Sacramento and tied in with another firehawk, then we got sent to Santa Clara, then diverted to Chico. I was hoping to meet up with Jim and see if I could arrange a flight; then we got sent back to Mather for initial attack responsibilities. If there aren't any new starts by Monday morning it'll be off to Los Alamitos for me to rehab the blackhawks and firehawks, then I get to go back home. Yay!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Life at Mt. Gate Helibase

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ More water dropped on more fire today....This would be a nasty place for ground firefighting too, (like the Yosemite fire) but for different reasons. Same steep terrain, bears, rattlesnakes and poison oak, but there are streams that cut through old mining areas that are highly toxic hazmat superfund cleanup sites. There are also vertical mine shafts all over the place. A fire crew tried to escape the fire heat in an old mine, just to find boxes of dynamite that were dated 1955....
Back at the relative safety of the helibase, things are working like they should. To the far left of my panorama shot try, you'll see the HEMTT that fuels the Chinook. 8 wheel drive, 4 wheel steering. Military knows the importance of moving fuel no matter what; I bet Byrin could make a helluva cool RV out of one. Here's my crew waiting for a mission in the Chinook. (We'd never just hang out in the back of our copter back home. Our Teeny tiny copter back home) Any guess why you never approach a Chinook from the front with rotors turning?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Some real firefighting

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ We dropped a total of 68,600 gallons of water on the fire today. We didn't stop the fire. We saved some of the scenic forest around Whiskeytown Lake and kept a road from burning over so people could evacuate, but 5 people still got burned up pretty bad.
I'm beat. Back for more tomorrow, just don't know what division we'll be working. The one picture is another CH 47, a Columbia Helicopters ship I managed in the Butler II fire. I'm in the same kind of copter (Except it's olive drab with pink flames.....Plus we can lift a bigger bucket. 2000 gallons.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Byron's flames

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ (Helibase manager) "OK we're getting a CH-47 here today from National Guard. Get it inspected and ready to fly, then shuttle the convict crews to the slike camps. Maybe 32 at a time."
Ummm.....OK. I'm trained for this, just never done it. "Hi I'm Steve. I love your helicopter, very manly death machine. I know you just got back from Afghanistan and all, but now we're going to paint your helicopter. Neon. Pink. And, Byron wants flames on it. Byron's the FBH. (They pretend to know what FBH is. No one asks so I don't say it's "Friend Back Home")
So we shuttle all these troops up in a huge Chinook painted with flames.... I'll get a better pic tomorrow

Putting the wet stuff on the hot stuff...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ So what I'm doing now is drafting water out of Whiskeytown Lake, using a National Guard blackhawk. Then we fly over the fire. Air Tactics gives me the general area then I select a target and do a count down, then the water is released from the bucket. This is a 660 gallon bucket. This is the fun part. I have to find hotel space, food, track billing stuff, log flight use stuff, do paperwork. Lots of paperwork. I suspect they make lots of paperwork just to cut down more trees and thin the forest, making firefighting easier. Oh by the way---ther are lots and lots of trees out there.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The new assignment

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Here's my new copter. It's a National Guard machine from North Dakota. My seat is on the other side. These guys are excellent pilots, with NO fire experience. The Military Helicopter Manager's job is to direct the water drops on the fire and decipher the firefighting orders. You get to fly alot, and lean waaaay out the left side. It's pretty tiring. The President will be here in a week so all firefighting will stop.....Grr. Two days with Annamarie and the kids wasn't enough, but it was something at least. Hopefully the overtime checks come before she just changes the locks....
In the Yosemite fire I was living in a tent for two weeks. This fire I'm at the Red Lion Inn with my own California King bed. My tent would fit on this bed.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Out of the frying pan....

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Got just a few days at home to take care of some honey-do's. The phone rang off the hook from North Ops, South Ops, and Cal Fire.... Couldn't put it off anymore, and got sent north to Redding. Tomorrow I meet with an airwing of National Guard Blackhawks--I'll be flying with one for the next couple weeks until the fires are out. How do our soldiers in Iraq do it???? This is just two weeks at a time and I don't like being away from home. 72 hours at home wasn't enough.
Not even sure what fire I'll be fighting. I'll see if I can get pics from inside the Blackhawk; there's going to be lots to do

Saturday, July 5, 2008

My Helicopter/Helibase crew

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Took this photo last night after the debrief. What a crew. They handled the shuttling of equipment and cargo into the backcountry at a breakneck pace, setting up three remote fire camps in the High Sierras---all while doing bucket work for water drops. No one complained about the 5:00 am briefing or 9:30 pm debrief, every day, for two weeks. Safety was a priority. We're slowly narrowing it down to a skeleton crew to haul everything back out again.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Today's workpill

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ We sort of alternated between doing water drops and troop shuttle stuff, flying fire crews into the spike camp. After that we did a whole bunch of slingloads of food/toilet paper/chain saw fuel, that sort of thing. Bears are a real problem. They've learned helicopters come with food so they run towards them. We started putting food in these bolt rim barrels.
We are doing well enough to release some resources. My task now is to put together my best people into an 'initial attack crew' and we'll be paored with a copter to handle new starts in the area. All part of the standard winding-down process.
There are lots of good pictures but internet access is rare. Thanks much for the comments---these are long busy days with few pleasantries (Showers, etc)