Following the crash of C-130 aircraft, a key component of the firefighting efforts in Colorado and North Dakota, the military has decided to ground the entire fleet of 7 planes until they determine the cause of the crash.
“You’ve basically lopped off eight air tankers immediately from your inventory, and that’s going to make it tougher to fight wildfires,” said Mike Archer, who distributes a daily newsletter of wildfire news.
“And who knows how long the planes will be down?” he said, adding that investigators will take time to make their conclusions.
The C-130 from an Air National Guard wing based in Charlotte, N.C., was carrying a crew of six and fighting a 6.5-square-mile blaze in the Black Hills of South Dakota when it crashed Sunday, killing at least two crew members and injuring others.
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced Tuesday that two people had died in the crash. He didn’t identify either victim.
The crash cut the number of large air tankers fighting this summer’s outbreak of wildfires by one-third.
President Barack Obama signed a bill last month hastening the addition of seven large tanker planes to the nation’s rundown aerial firefighting fleet, at a cost of $24 million, but the first planes won’t be available until mid-August.
C-130 air tankers have crashed on firefighting duty before. In 2002, a privately owned civilian version of an older-model C-130 crashed in California, killing three crew members. The plane broke up in flight and an investigation blamed fatigue cracks in the wings.
The crash, in part, prompted a review of the airworthiness of large U.S. air tankers and led ultimately to a greatly reduced fleet of large civilian tanker planes. The 44 planes in the fleet a decade ago has dwindled to nine being flown on U.S. Forest Service exclusive use contracts right now.
You really have to read Robert Zubrin’s excellent article on the home page about how these wildfires were totally preventable. The Western Pine Beetle has contributed to the deforestation of a wide swath of the American west and the reason they thrive is because environmentalists have launched literally thousands of suits to prevent the one course of action that would bring the beetle population under control and make wildfires if not rare, then certainly less devastating.
The answer is logging and the greens go into hysterics if there is a proposal to cut down a single tree. From “Incinerating the West”:
There is one word that sums up the required course of action: logging. The beetles have been spreading uncontrollably because continuously connected and extremely thick forests densely populated with mature trees provide the ideal environment for their proliferation. Logging to thin the forests of mature trees that afford the beetles their favorite homes would slow their growth considerably. Logging out tree-free gaps between sections of forests would impose quarantine limits on the epidemic. Logging out trees that have already been killed would remove fuel for the otherwise inevitable conflagration.
These facts are well-known, and in many places there are those who would be delighted to do the logging (not everywhere, unfortunately, as the shutting down of 90% of the American timber industry by the environmentalists over the past two decades has forced many local sawmills to shut down) because pine beetle kill wood is fine timber. Indeed, its striking blue stain endows it with beauty prized by many carpenters for ornamental purposes. Yet time and again, plans to allow controlled preemptive logging to proceed have been blocked by spurious lawsuits from a multitude of self-described environmentalist groups, who additionally have used these suits to bilk the taxpayers of billions of dollars.
The arguments that the putative environmentalists have used to justify their campaign have been risible. For example, in a legal brief filed August 29, 2011, on behalf of itself and several other groups, the South Dakota-based Friends of the Norbeck said:
“Yes, bark beetles are killing many trees, but that won’t necessarily lead to large fires. Even if it did, there’s not much humans can do directly to forests to influence fire risk, except to begin reducing human causes of climatic change. Logging the forest will not significantly influence fire spread, and removal of dead trees has many negative impacts on forest ecosystems.”
Robert also recommends the use of DDT, a move that would kill around 95% of the beetles. DDT has been banned since the 1970s for its purported damage to birds. In the intervening years, the scourge of malaria, once almost wiped out, has claimed millions of lives. The greens, who see the DDT ban as their crowning achievement, would probably have apoplexy if anyone proposed re-authorizing its use.
Wildfires that are mostly preventable with a little common sense forest management are destroying hundreds of homes and laying waste to vast stretches of the western pine forests. The greens blame “global warming.” But if they were truly honest with themselves (a stretch I know, since they aren’t honest with us), they might look in the mirror to find the answer for who is to blame for this catastrophe.