THERE ARE MANY WHO BELIEVE THE CURRENT PLAN TO DEPLOY ATTACKS AGAINST FOREST FIRES IS AN ADEQUATED EXAMPLE OF A TOO LITTLE TOO LATE CONTAINMENT POLICY. The current protocol too often surrenders valuable time of containment in which a fire gains commanding and unrelenting control before the air tankers maintained by the military are invited to participate. Isn't it here at the outset of a fire outbreak that a dramatic powerful organized and massive effort should be mounted? Particularly in those states with smaller resources where critical time and advantage is often lost when too few aircraft dropping water and retardant are forced to depart the fire scene for refueling or reloading.
In retrospect, looking at the history of forest fires over the past decades, it would appear many of the lost millions of acres of valuable timberland and wildlife might in all likelihood been saved if enough air response had been organized and made available at the fire’s outset? We have come to accept the current protracted process as normal, would you agree in actuality, it appears to be anything but normal?
A Proposed Solution: There are already many modified retrofitted tanker aircraft on tarmacs of the Air National Guard in several western states that could be mobilized and airborne in an all out, orchestrated (rehearsed) taskforce, addressing a fire in any state, similarly to the way they would approach a bombing mission in wartime. Perhaps a “checker boarding” grid pattern could ultimately contain the fire while forestry ground crews and commercial aircraft could complete the objective with much less loss of property and human life.
This fire-fighting C-130 multistate “common sense” task force proposal might be one born out of necessity. This proposal would suggest the design and joint implementation of an Air National Guard C 130 Tanker unit joint task force (particularly during fire seasons) organized from the existing units already maintained financed and manned by the various agencies in the adjacent states. Operation Wildefire, after winning an award from the California Public Resource Forum For Public Policy years earlier. The proposal was presented to Major General, Frank Scoggins (now retired) of the Air National Guard in the state of Washington. The initial discussion was followed by a conceptual meeting at Fort Murray in Tacoma WA. Could a task force travel to the breakout spot of a fire in any state within a matter of hours to mount an immediate, total and aggressive response?
It was suggested that the author also present the concept to the Major Generals of the western states for their comments as well. While I certainly have no authority to speak for the Guard and do not presume to infer such, the comments received were most favorable.
Importantly, Major Scoggins in 2000 presented Operation Wildefireat the annual meeting of the 130-tanker groups gathered at Scotts Air Force base in Missouri for their annual meeting. What came from the meeting (as relayed to me) was a consensus the plan appeared to be potentially viable even though the military could not independently initiate such a plan except by agency invitation.
Problem:The military serves at the will and invitation of the various state forestry agencies and authorities and cannot initiate such an expanded role independently. It is a fact that jurisdictional disputes and territorial limitations are also a big part of a bureaucratic framework determined by state, county and federal restrictions and ordinances which would have to be addressed.
Unique situations demand unique answers. When the ongoing discussion of global warming is added to the mix along with a potential threat involving homeland security, wouldn’t we agree there is need for a maximum effort to limit the destruction and control fires in a much earlier timeframe.
As forest fires continue to destroy valuable forestland, homes, personal property, claiming both human and animal life, this proposal must be considered as a viable alternative to the current minimal intervention policy that permitsthis destruction year after year. To continue the current inadequate approach when this common sense answer could all but eliminate a fire in a matter of hours or days, is insane. Isn’t it time to begin discussing implementing it in the western states and free us from helplessly standing by year after year watching a fire’s destruction? If you think this might be a good time to begin discussing the possible implementation of this protocol, pass this on to your state Governor's office, Thank you.
Christian Wilde Author, Operation Wildefire.