Record Fires Stretch Rotor Resources
An unusually warm winter and mild spring have given rise to some of the worst forest fires in the nation’s history, from Florida to California. Not even northern climes have been immune. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Duck Lake fire destroyed 23,000 acres and 140 structures and denuded six miles of Lake Superior shoreline in late May. The most active fire to date has been the Whitewater-Baldy fire in New Mexico, which had consumed nearly 300,000 acres by mid-June after raging for more than a month. Nearly 70 specialized firefighting helicopters have been involved in attacking these blazes, including a pair of S-64 Air Cranes from California-based Siller Brothers, under contract to the U.S. Forest Service. Sixteen helicopters have been deployed to fight the 50,000-acre High Park fire in Colorado. Pressure on helicopter assets has increased this year from both fire activity and a shortage of fixed-wing water bombers as that fleet temporarily contracts due to aging aircraft issues and safety concerns.