This pic from 6/17 is striking to me. The sky is so overwhelmingly ominous with layers of smoke from the Sherpa Fire! Yet the DC-10 tanker is heading into the mouth of the dragon to drop fire retardant.
Even snapping the fire from high above the fray, some of our pix included aircraft. For those who are curious how aerial fire attack looks from above, or my fellow aviation buffs, here are a few pix. First the biggest and baddest: the DC-10.
Going by the catchy name “Tanker 910” this flying fire extinguisher can lay a track like this 300′ wide and a mile long. At the other end of the spectrum is this trusty all-purpose helicopter (possibly a Sheriff UH-1N “Huey”) dropping water while a ground crew takes a break to enjoy the show.
This bigger helicopter I think is a Sky Crane, and it can deliver a larger load of water.
Managing all this were two “spotter” lead planes, mostly taking turns over the fire but while we were there they both made appearances. This King Air N463DF was higher, so we got a better look at it.
Down closer to the action during our time over the fire was this Cessna 525 N10R looking really cool.
This sleek jet we normally see whisking the well to do into SBA greeted by a waiting limo, was instead directing both the DC-10 and this smaller 4-engine jet that I think is one of Neptune Aviation’s BAe 146 tankers very precisely painting a red line of PhosChek fire retardant.
Last, another look at the tanker we saw far in the smoky distance, that I think is a Grumman S-2 Tracker.
There were more aircraft working the fire, but few were close enough to positively identify. Several times we could see nine or more inside the fire restricted area (red box) at once, using the Avare and HIZ apps on an S4 phone in our living room. Each of the blue dots in this cropped screen capture is an aircraft, the direction of the line shows their heading and the length of the line approximates their speed (so the short lines tend to be helicopters, and the long one approaching the box was the Cessna).
Here’s another batch of pix from our 6/19 flight over the Sherpa Fire. These were taken from our approach slowly climbing in the hot thin air over Montecito at 2pm to get above the 7,000′ safety area, until we first reached the NW corner at 2:30. They’re out of sequence with the ones hastily posted here and on Edhat earlier, but I’ll post more tomorrow to complete this set of larger and different views from those. First is this view into the smoke from over Montecito, unedited (except for size) to show how thick the smoke was. Most of the rest have been tweaked to better show detail.
Next a much closer view into the smoke as we neared the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) area created to safely separate fire attack aircraft from everyone else (including photojournalists, of which we were the only aircraft there that long before TV news time).
Continuing our slow climb across the mountains into Santa Ynez Valley we finally got above the smoke layer for a clear look back SSW across the ridge.
At the left you can see some of the many expensive broadcast towers along that ridge that firefighters worked to protect the night before. Finally well above 7,000′ feet we turned SW back over the ridge and saw our first PhosChek drop of the day.
They were working spot fires at this Northern edge of the burn area, where they’d already painted the hillside to slow and eventually stop the fire’s up-slope advance well below the expensive TV towers. Here’s another angle on that spot, showing how the fire was affected a few minutes later.
Nearing the Northwest corner of the burned area we could see a few more spot fires well within the scratched-bare earth, already-burned, and/or PhosChek-protected areas.
Last up for this post is a view of the whole Northwest corner from more overhead, tweaked to better distinguish the burned areas in the dappled light from broken high clouds.
Straight up from the left red area and smoke plume is the El Capitan campground jutting out into the Channel. At the top-right is Refugio campground. Check out the layers of bare earth fire breaks, some quite wide, and multiple red lines of PhosCheck “insurance.”
I’ve just sent this to Edhat, and will try to post more and bigger pix later tonite:
We flew over the Sherpa Fire at 3pm Sunday and got a bunch of aerials. We’re in the middle of Father’s Day events but I wanted to shoot these off to Ed in case they have time to post them. I’ll put them on our blog too in case they’re too busy to post, because they show the whole burn area and though we’re seeing smoke in town the aerial views are very reassuring. In essence there are only half a dozen spot fires big enough to make a small visible smoke plume and they’re all inside the burned perimeter except one at the North edge that’s well-painted with PhosChek. In fact, while passing overhead we saw a small jet and then the DC-10 both do big drops to paint a bright red line above that edge. Lots of other pix including heli drop but I’ll put those on our blog later tonite.
Sherpa Fire (aka Scherpa, Sharpa, Shirpa, Chirpa depending on whom you ask) turned out to be the focus of our “flight to Lompoc” (that we didn’t end up visiting). Soon after takeoff our almost normal view across Devereux Slough had a smoke line across the island mountains.
The colors were muted and shifted, but still lovely. Toward the Northwest though, things looked quite different.
From distant El Capitan toward the North it looked more like doomsday. A big orange cloud rising with white wisps of smoke at the Western edge of this big fire.
The sun, moon and most of town has been painted orange by this smoke for days now as the Eastern edge is blown by intermittent bouts of fierce wind, ever closer to the city.
That hilltop on the right demonstrates what a blown ember can do by way of jumping ahead of the main fire.
A wider view gives an impression of the irregular shape of the burned area showing where firefighters took their stands, orange lines of PhosChek fire retardant dropped from planes, micro-climate winds, and shifts in prevailing winds in both direction and strength as the fire ran wild.
By the time we had climbed past the fire, far offshore to cede airspace to the fire aircraft, it was clear that the sky from Gaviota toward Lompoc was smoky and the town itself probably was too.
We decided to give up and turn back toward home, and this scene greeted us.
Blue sky above an ugly smear of red, with the tall white top of a heat surge from the awakening fire consuming a new area as we descended back below the layer of smoke.
By seriously tweaking some pix, I was able to clarify what had already burned on the Western end of the fire.
Here’s a wider view of the whole fire perimeter at about 4:20pm 6/17/2016 from about the same angle with the color and contrast more as the camera saw it, in case anyone wants to do their own tweaking.
Now a tweaked zoom closeup of the burned area above El Capitan.
Next a view of the burn area toward the North, showing nearly all but the Eastern end.
Now an update on the big active burn area at the Eastern end, including the spot fire hilltop.
Check out this closeup showing those tall flames shining through the thick smoke.
Another angle, across the burning hilltop and main active fire back toward the Northwest.
Here’s a zoom closeup through the heat waves, of that hilltop showing the fire vehicles at the left and some PhosChek on the hill crest beyond.
One last aerial view of that area, widened out to include helicopters working the main fire beyond.
We didn’t get any good pix of the massive DC-10, but it did a drop just before we took off and another after we landed. It flies here from Santa Maria airport where most of the aircraft activity is based, so our flight was probably during the time it took to fly back for a pit stop and return plus some time to line up the drop. The result if you look back through these pix, is the fire going from the monster we saw in flight to this tamed beast we saw before driving home from the airport.
Hopefully what we see at first light tomorrow will be less scary than what we’ve been seeing daily, and all our firefighters will be safe.