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Aerial Firefighting North America Gathers the World’s Experts 

Tangent Link, renowned and recognised across the globe for its work with the airborne firefighting community, brings the Aerial Firefighting North America Conference and Exhibition back to Sacramento, California this coming March. Taking place at the McClellan Conference Centre, Sacramento McClellan Airport between 12 and 14 March, the event is set to highlight some of the major issues affecting the Aerial Firefighting community. The event will be the biggest in North America to date and is set to attract over 40 exhibitors and 300 attendees from as far afield as Argentina, Australia, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK.

Workshops – Confronting Key Firefighters Needs 

Four workshops on the event’s first day will examine issues that continue to hinder the Aerial Firefighting community.  The first, presented by the Federal Administration’s Bruce Wright, will examine pilot fatigue.  He will highlight how factors such as squeezing in holidays outside the summer firefighting season and hectic flying schedules can affect people.  Then propose solutions that could save aircrew lives.

The US Forestry Service, with colleagues from the aerial firefighting Centre of Excellence in Colorado, will look at future night-vision and Night Vision Goggles.  Surely fires can no longer be left to burn unhindered by the AFF community during the night?  But can safety issues be overcome so that more NVG technologies can be introduced?  These are among the workshop topics that will be discussed.

Engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Canada will instruct their operator audience on the latest developments and MRO updates of its PW-100 Series Turboprops and PT-6 engines, which provides the propulsion on such fire-fighting The PW engines are regarded as some of the safest powerplants in the world.

During extended wildfire seasons human factors in the firefighting profession can become a major issue.  Stressful environments with the demands of continuous shifts and being on constant alert can cause concerns with the human/machine interface.  The US Forestry Service’s Ivan Pupilidy will provide a general firefighter view of human performance fundamentals and highlight all these effects in a third workshop, and to specify some solutions.

Static Exhibitions and Aerial Demonstrations

The workshops will be followed by live aircraft demonstrations, taking place at the McClellan Airfield.  There will be several aircraft as well as their equipment on a static display including two Boeing CH-47D Chinook helicopters, Canadair CL-415, B747-400 Supertanker, Lockheed C-130 and BAe Avro RJ85 among others.Attendees will see several aerial firefighting demonstrations, including an Airspray BAe146/RJ85 Airtanker equipped with a new iRADS internal aircraft tank, that will highlight the way these aircraft stem the flames.

Wildfire Leaders Opening the Conference

The past year has seen some brutal wildfires affecting communities across California. Aerial Firefighting North America will be privileged to welcome four senior representatives, from the world of firefighting to the conference’s opening ceremony.  Their thoughts on the increasing importance of fire-fighting will kick-start two days of presentations.

Shawna Legarza is the National Director of Fire and Aviation Management for the US Forest Service. She has been in post since June 2016 and accrued 25 years of wildland fire management experience.  Her presentation will highlight the changes and direction of aerial firefighting in the US based on the ever-extending seasons. Now, as the head of the Forestry Service, she will present us with her insight into how her agency works.

Personnel from the state’s own Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) worked tirelessly, putting their own lives at risk, to combat the fire’s devastating effects.  Providing his own insight into the devastating fires which struck California in the latter stages of 2017, will be CAL FIRE’s Chief Ken Pimlott. The CAL FIRE Director ran the operations during the October siege and the December fire.  Sadly, the latter claimed the life of CAL FIRE engineer, Cory Iverson, during the Thomas fire, crushing the whole fire-fighting community.

The opening session will also see a presentation from Brigadier General Dana A Hessheimer, Director Joint Staff – California Military Department. He runs the Joint Staff and joint military operations throughout the California Military Department, which has a workforce of 22,000 soldiers, airmen and civilian employees. He serves as the principal executive assistant and advisor to the Adjutant General and directs on their behalf the coordination, planning, development, execution and supervision of all Joint Staff programs that prepare the state for contingency operations in either federal or state emergencies and federal military mobilizations. During his USAF career, he has flown more than 4,000 hours in the T-37, T-38, KC-135, RC-135 as well as MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1 Predator UAVs.

Chief Kim Zagaris – Chief California Office of Emergency Services (Cal-OES) has extensive background in fire service, ICS/NIMS (Incident Command Systems/ National Incident Management System), Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), emergency management, and homeland security which includes working with local, state, federal and international agencies for over the last 40 years.  His presentation will explain the day-to-day management of the California Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System, which includes over 1,100 fire agencies, and some 55,000 professional and volunteer firefighters that operate over 6,000 fire engines statewide.

International Aerial Firefighting Award

The international Aerial Firefighting Award ceremony will take place during the conference dinner in the evening of 13th March, overseen by the Boards of IFAWG- International Fire Aviation Working Group, Global Fire Monitoring Centre & Associated Aerial Firefighters.  The Award, in honour of a former CAL FIRE pilot – Walt Darren – will culminate in a nominated personality from the AFF community receiving this prestigious award at the Conference Dinner on the 13th March.

Military Aerial Firefighting – MAFFs

The afternoon session of the first day of the conference will see Lt Colonel Bradley G Ross, the USAF Operations Officer of the 731st Airlift Squadron (AS)/302nd Airlift Wing (AW) based at Peterson AFB, Colorado, present to the audience. His unit operates the C-130H Hercules, which can be fitted with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) and he will discuss the training of overseas operators.  The MAFFS is a roll-on roll-off self-contained system that can discharge up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds. There are five USAF C-130 MAFFS units serving the US Forestry Service whenever required.  The bulk of the MAFFS training, which includes Forestry Service aviation operations personnel is coordinated by the Air Force Reserve (AFRes) at Peterson AFB.  However, there are other MAFFS C-130 units serving the Air National Guard, that includes the 145th AW at Charlotte Douglas IAP, North Carolina; 146th AW at Port Hueneme, California; 152nd AW at Reno, Nevada and the 153rd AW at Cheyenne IAP, Wyoming.

Another serving member of the military, Lt Colonel Bryan Allen of the MAFFS Programme Manager at Port Hueneme based California ANG will provide an insight into the MAFFS training with California’s Civil Wildfire Response Community.

Part of the second day of Aerial Firefighting North America will highlight the effects of climate change.   California, particularly, is at the coalface of global warming and any national political decisions have a major impact on the state’s ability to manage its environment.

Dr Stephen J Pyne, Regents’ Professor, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, USA will speak about his findings on climate change and how to limit future damage.   Whereas Dr Chad T. Hanson, PhD, Co-Founder, Director & Principal Ecologist, John Muir Project wants to raise the controversial matter of allowing forests to burn in a bid to deliver public safety.  An interesting theory, which might confound the majority of on-lookers, who believe all fires should be put out immediately.

International Line-Up of Speakers
Simon White, Air Attack Supervisor, Emergency Management Victoria, Australia will talk about his experiences.  Victoria’s firefighting aircraft fleet comes from across the world and includes the right mix of large and small, fixed-wing and rotary aircraft to effectively fight fires. The aircraft fleet for the 2016-17 season included 48 specialist aircraft that are strategically positioned across the state to support firefighters on the ground and protect communities.  Drones (UAVs) were used for the first time as part of a new trial to gather intelligence and inform operational decision-making, and Simon will explain how the Victoria Emergency Management utilised night-vision flying technology. Drones and night-vision flying are two sectors which are bound to increase their presence in the Aerial Firefighting community.

Travelling from Argentina will be Dr Daniel Russo, Under Secretary of Civil Protection in Argentina’s Ministry of Security.  He will highlight the growing need for an aerial firefighting capability in the South American state.  Like its neighbour Chile, Argentina is suffering from an increasing number of wildfires but relies on outside agencies to thwart them.  Budget constraints have so far stopped any dedicated air tanker firefighting force, but is it now the time to find a solution? What would that be?

These and many other questions will be answered as key players from the Aerial Firefighting community congregate in the USA’s Golden State. 2018 is predicted to be a busy one for the world’s AFF community, so sharing experiences should enable it to make it a safer one.

A limited number of Delegate and Visitor places is available to attend Aerial Firefighting North America 2018, to find out more please visit www.aerial-firefighting-northamerica.com.

Image shows the CAL FIRE fleet. Picture supplied by Tangent Link Limited.

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