Western wildfires – horrific, devastating … and unnecessary

New fire-fighting technology could help put them out. Why isn’t it being used?

Guest post by Paul Driessen

Millions of Americans watched their evening news in horrified fascination.

The Colorado Springs wildfire had doubled in size overnight, to 24 square miles – half the size of San Francisco – as 50-mph gusts carried fiery branches from exploding treetops across fire breaks, down Waldo Canyon and into fresh stands of drought-dried timber. Flames crested the ridge above the beautiful Air Force Academy campus, 346 houses burned, hundreds more faced immolation, and 32,000 people were evacuated, through smoke and ash that turned daytime into a choking night sky.

130 miles north, another monster fire west of Fort Collins consumed 136 square miles of forest and torched 259 homes. By July 4, this year’s Colorado forest fires had devoured 170,000 acres – 265 square miles, nearly five times the size of Washington, DC. Across eleven western states, nearly 2,000,000 acres have already burned this year; imagine all of Delaware and Rhode Island ablaze.

People died. Many homes are now nothing but ashes, chimneys and memories. In the forests, the infernos exterminated wildlife habitats, roasted eagle and spotted owl fledglings alive in their nests, boiled away trout and trout streams, left surviving birds and mammals to starve for lack of food, and incinerated every living organism in the thin soils, presaging massive erosion that will clog streambeds during downpours and snowmelts. Many areas will not recover their foliage or biodiversity for decades.

Having hiked in many of these areas, I’ve been truly depressed by these infernos. Why were they allowed to happen? “We are doing everything possible to control these blazes,” officials insist. One has to wonder.

Put aside the insanity of letting horse-blindered environmentalists, bureaucrats and judges obstruct even selective cutting to thin dense stands of timber or remove trees killed by beetles, after decades of Smoky the Bear management. Forget for a moment that these policies turn forests into closely bunched matchsticks, waiting for lightning bolts, sparks, untended campfires or arsonists to start conflagrations.

Ignore the guideline that say fires in these areas can be extinguished if they are of human origin (if making that distinction is even possible in the midst of an inferno) – but must be allowed to burn if they are “natural” (caused by lightning, for example), even amid droughts, in the hope that they won’t become raging infernos that threaten homes. Disregard the crazy jurisdictional disputes that prevent aircraft from dropping water on a fire, because the crew cannot tell whether the blaze is on Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service land.

Pay no mind to the fact that these fires emit prodigious amounts of carbon dioxide – along with large quantities of mercury, particulates and other pollutants. (Many rock formations contain mercury; trees absorb it through their roots, and release it into the atmosphere when they burn.)

Once a fire erupts, there is no reason it should devastate homes, suburban developments or vast forest areas. The technology exists to stop these fires, long before they reach such intensities and proportions.

Two days before Waldo Canyon burst into flames, a revolutionary fire suppressant stopped a 300-acre fire north of Albuquerque, New Mexico almost in its tracks. Just nine single-engine planeloads of FireIce (about 7,200 gallons) were needed to douse the flames, prevent nearby trees and homes from igniting, and insure that the fire remained permanently extinguished.

Dutch Snyder, the independent 27-year veteran fire-fighting pilot whose airplane handled this successful mission, remarked afterward that he had “never seen a retardant hold a fire line” so well, or “any product knock down a fire so quickly.”

According to its inventor, GelTech Solutions chief technology officer Peter Cordani, FireIce smothers fires, by taking heat and oxygen away from combustible materials. It can be dropped directly onto a fire, penetrating through to burning trees and brush – rather than just being dropped far from flames, in often futile efforts to create fire breaks that hold.

As many news outlets, like Fox 21 KXRM-TV in Colorado Springs, have documented in recent years (visit the GelTech website for video clips), this product can be dropped by plane to suppress wildfire intensity, or sprayed by homeowners on houses and landscaping to protect them from heat and flames. Even a 2,000-degree F blowtorch cannot ignite a wood board (or burn a human hand) coated in FireIce.

The product is non-toxic, non-corrosive and environment-friendly, Cordani says in the news stories. It’s been tested, certified and approved by the US Forest Service, which has FireIce and GelTech on its “qualified products list” of fire-battling chemicals and professionals. The company maintains its own state-of-the-art mixing equipment and is ready at a moment’s notice to assist aerial and ground fire-fighting operations anywhere in the USA. It can fill trucks and airplanes of any size, including 3,000-gallon Air Force C-130s and even 10,000-gallon DC-10 supertankers.

Duly impressed, I called the company to ask what role it was playing in fighting the Colorado blazes and why its technology apparently was not working. The answer shocked me. It had not been asked to help!

Despite all the news stories about FireIce, its certification by the USFS, and frequent communications between GelTech and federal, state and local officials – no one had contacted the company.

How is that possible? What will it take to persuade officials to break from traditional (and obviously inadequate) wildfire tactics and retardants, and use FireIce to combat what Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown called fires of “epic proportions” – to protect homes, habitats, wildlife and human lives?

New Mexico has now used FireIce with great success against several forest fires. With a long fire season still ahead, perhaps US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Dan Jiron, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs Mayors Karen Weithunat and Steve Bach will now follow the example set by Governor Susana Martinez and her colleagues in the Land of Enchantment.

If they do not, responsible legislators and environmentalists should find out why – so that tragedies like these Colorado fires never happen again.


Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, a ten-year Colorado resident, legislative aide for former US Senator Bill Armstrong of Colorado, former policy analyst for the US Department of the Interior, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

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July 24, 2012 5:17 am

Old firefighting technology would help, too — if it was still available. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration effectively decommissioned much of it last summer, by abruptly cancelling the contract for use of the planes which were the core of the U.S. Forrest Service’s aerial firefighting capabilities, and thereby putting out of business the company that both operated those planes and produced and maintained the key firefighting subsystem used in the best of the remaining firefighting planes:

July 24, 2012 5:23 am

Maybe the company didn’t make campaign donations to the right party?

G. Karst
July 24, 2012 5:24 am

My guess is that FireIce is just too expensive and and the fire fighting service is resisting due to budget limitations. I wouldn’t want to be the one making that decision. Perhaps GelTech should have announced a “fire sale” this year until the USFS was dependent on it’s product before raising prices. A price check may tell the story. As usual… follow the money. GK

July 24, 2012 5:28 am

Maybe the company could get a contract from Russia?

July 24, 2012 5:35 am

There were over 400 lightning events near my home in the Sierra foothills on Sunday night. Luckily for us none of the events caused a fire in the forests near my homestead. I HOPE our fire districts are 1) aware of FireIce 2) the positive results that New Mexico has had with the product.
My legislature is going to be charging me a fire protection fee (as our state is broke and they have to find $ from somewhere) of $150.00 a habitable building shortly. I will be letting CAL Fire and my local fire districts know about FireIce later today. I live rather close to a small municipal airport, surrounded by VERY dry timberlands.
I will be stopping up at the airport later today to provide them a copy of your article.

July 24, 2012 5:48 am

This whole mess underscores the problem of “What belongs to all, belongs to no one.” None of the government bureaucrats has hardly any skin in the game at all. Washington none at all.
Privatize the National Forests. Let the Nature Conservancy, or even, ha, the Sierra Club take responsibility for the survival of the forests. We’d soon see a significant change in the management practices. Navel gazing idiots wouldn’t be able to ignore fires any longer.
Hiking through desolation isn’t nearly as much fun as hiking through beauty. Swiss hiking trails and the Swiss Alpen Club would be good models for caring individuals to follow.
I suspect Georgia Pacific or a number of other for profit organizations would take far better care of this resource than the governments do – either national or state. The pine plantations in the South have far fewer wildfires than our national forests and it isn’t coincidence.

July 24, 2012 5:49 am

The idiocy of government never ceases to amaze me. If incompetence like this happened in the private sector, heads would roll.

S. Geiger
July 24, 2012 6:33 am

I assume this is way oversimplified. In New Mexico this year we had our largest (on record) fire this season. The fire north of Albuquerque was in a critical area….cost of the retardant, availability of the material; trained people and equipment to deploy it, and proximity to housing and or other infrastructure must all be considered, I assume. The same people bitch about Gov spending and then are very critical when Gov resources are strained and or lacking in a time of need.

July 24, 2012 6:52 am

Do you want government to do stuff but you don’t want to pay for it with taxes.
So somehow if fire fighting is done by private companies it’s all going to be cheaper. I can’t imagine how that’s going to work.

July 24, 2012 6:57 am

Eastern Australia is currently undergoing vegetal regrowth on a truly phenomenal scale. This is due to abundant rain in the last half-decade, but also to more efficient use of agricultural land, regrowth on hobby farms, in vanity National Parks (eyeroll), in proper National Parks, poor conditions (too bloody wet) for back-burning, poor policy on back-burning, underfunding and reduction of forestry etc etc
There is such a thing as substantial and long-term climate change. It happened in Eastern Oz after 2007. It caused massive, massive, massive regrowth. (And I think I left out a “massive”.) Just a reminder to our Green Betters that this regrowth is, shall we say, combustible. I don’t want to distract them from the more important task of checking the carbon footprint and Green Rating of the various brands of fire pumps, however…

Pamela Gray
July 24, 2012 7:08 am

Return public forests to states and let counties manage them. Fire fighters should be called upon by county public forest managers to fight whatever fire they want extinguished. There should be no federal lands. Period. Finally, people should be allowed to purchase catastophic flood, fire, wind, and earthquake insurance and bear the burden of losing their home to such events. If you can’t afford the insurance, you should consider not owning a home, or at least be ready to lose it without whining. Harsh? Not a bit. This country was built under such personal responsibility (and yes, harsh tragedy). Why do we need a nursery with nannies now?

July 24, 2012 7:17 am

Several things here. The arrogant administration cares less of anything west of Pennsylvania Ave. The incompetent bureaucrats of the various agencies responsible for managing western forest lands are turf protectors; they too care less of anything west of Pennsylvania Ave. Living in what 40 years ago was uninhabited forest is a risk. Old Denver burned to the ground, so it became law that all homes be brick… well, that was a long time ago. Fire protection is a myth. The public is apathetic and simply do not care outside the local devastation and why should they?

July 24, 2012 7:19 am

Sounds very familiar.
Remember the BP oil spill in the Gulf? All the clean-up boats were sitting in the harbors, with the bureaucrats going nuts over the boats having enough vests on board. Floating oil barriers were sitting on land, the companies producing them ready to pump out hundreds and thousands of yards, but nobody thought of giving them a call.
Never let a good crisis go to waste. Meanwhile, the so called president is golfing and the rest of the so called leaders twiddles their thumbs. It’s probably Bush’s fault, just like everything else.
There is something like the Evergreen Supertanker, a heavily modified 747. She’s also sitting on the ground, last deployment to a fire was last June.

Roy UK
July 24, 2012 7:19 am

@lazy teenager.
Who said it is going to be done by private firefighting companies?
Why not buy fireice and not the current firefighting chemical?
Or are you saying that we should pay our global warming taxes so that we can afford to deal with the catastrophic fires that will surely (possibly, maybe, perhaps, could) be a consequence.
I have always paid any taxes the government have charged. Every single cent. How about you? I do not believe in Catastrophic Global warming, but I have still paid my green taxes this year. How about you?
I would much rather the government spent money on this technology than on anything to do with Catastrophic Global warming. How about you?
My guess? As with the last time I asked you a question, you will not reply.
(PS, Mods, I am not currently in the UK, but this is me.)
[REPLY: Never doubted you for an instant. -REP]

July 24, 2012 7:30 am

I responded as a volunteer to the ~18,000 acre, Texas Tri-county wildfires in Sept 2011 and witnessed devastation and gross government incompetence. The fire began on Monday and immediately local officals established a fire command center at the Magnolia High School, assisting evacuation and direction of assets. Local business provided food, snacks, water and ice. By Wednesday an incredible ogranization had developed, providing three hot meals per day to the thousand fire fighters and law enforcement responders. On Thursday evening FEMA ARRIVED with their easels, poster boards and multicolored markers. In a Friday morning discussion with the Texas DPS Aviation Director i learned that the ONLY federal aerial tanker was deployed out of Abilene, only made daytime drops and with turn around, only made ONE flight per day. I had lunch on Friday with the newly arrived professional fire fighters from the west coast. They marveled at the volunteer relief effort, but stated that all of this would very soon come to an end.
The operation was to be federalized and ONLY FEMA APPROVED CONTRACTORS COULD PROVIDE SERVICES. Since California was the home of the nations most ‘experienced’ FEMA contractors, it would soon be a California directed effort. When i asked why i was told….”A FEMA contractor can get $5 for a boloney sandwich and that is all that they will feed the responders with”. When i mentioned this to another volunteer i was escorted from the command center. A local grocery chain had responded with three 18 wheeler trucks, one with dry goods, one refrigerated water, one with ice. In additon this local grocer provided a mobile kitchen, and seperate mobile mens and womens restroom trailers. All of these assets were ORDERED removed by FEMA. We are the government and we are here to assist you…now shut up and behave incompetent.

July 24, 2012 7:32 am

“I would much rather the government spent money on this technology than on anything to do with Catastrophic Global warming.”
Yes, and there seemed to be plenty of money for certain banks, friends of certain bankers, Solyndra, and nationalizing GM

Rod Everson
July 24, 2012 7:43 am

Well, I’m early to this thread, so only 14 comments as I write this. I wonder if it will turn into another thread where we learn most the pluses and minuses of the proposed solution, as we did with the recent Evergreen Tanker discussion? I suspect that will be the case.
Best observation made thus far, by wsbriggs: The pine forests in the Southeast, most of which are privately owned by paper/lumber companies, never seem to experience the sort of wildfires we (taxpayers) are forced to pay to fight in our western, national (taxpayer-owned) forests.
Maybe we (taxpayers) have hired the wrong manager of our (taxpayer-owned) resources? And I believe the private companies even make some money off of their forest resources. Imagine that. I also doubt very much you can find a Google view of their forests that resembles the wasted pile of matchsticks in some of our beetle infested national forests out west. But I guess there aren’t any pests in the Southeast? Or maybe they just have better management?

July 24, 2012 7:57 am

Faux Science Slayer says:
July 24, 2012 at 7:30 am

You story could make a good political ad for the coming campaign, especially in combination with similar stories and stories about the Obama administration’s blundering at the time of the Gulf oil spill. But the Republicans will be too dopey to take advantage of it. Maybe the Tea Party could do something, albeit with amateur production values.

July 24, 2012 7:57 am

LazyTeenager says:
July 24, 2012 at 6:52 am
Do you want government to do stuff but you don’t want to pay for it with taxes.
So somehow if fire fighting is done by private companies it’s all going to be cheaper. I can’t imagine how that’s going to work.
Of course because your a brain washed fool.

Bern Bray
July 24, 2012 7:59 am

What “daveburton” says may well be true, but I have to applaud the men and women that kept the tankers that were available flying. I can’t even imagine the work required to fix and service the constant stream of airplanes and helicopters flying over my house from dawn to dusk, and the effort of the the aircrews themselves to maintain safety and professionalism in a truly trying situation.
Hats of to all of those in the air and on the ground that fought these fires

July 24, 2012 8:10 am

…I called the company to ask what role it was playing in fighting the Colorado blazes and why its technology apparently was not working. The answer shocked me. It had not been asked to help!
Despite all the news stories about FireIce, its certification by the USFS, and frequent communications between GelTech and federal, state and local officials – no one had contacted the company.

Then that means that someone wanted a fire of that size. Dunno who. Probably an entity that thrives on and takes advantage of a crisis, never letting one “go to waste”.
The other option is that the bloated bureaucracy is too large to handle a simple decision that would save lives and homes.
“Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence” if you wish to be forgiving. I’m not. I don’t trust that easily.

July 24, 2012 8:12 am
July 24, 2012 8:17 am

LazyTeenager says:
July 24, 2012 at 6:52 am
“Do you want government to do stuff but you don’t want to pay for it with taxes.”
So, to say that you want response spending is to say that you don’t want any taxes and government services at all?

LKMiller (aka treegyn1)
July 24, 2012 8:38 am

Pamela Gray says:
July 24, 2012 at 7:08 am
“Return public forests to states and let counties manage them. Fire fighters should be called upon by county public forest managers to fight whatever fire they want extinguished. There should be no federal lands. Period. Finally, people should be allowed to purchase catastophic flood, fire, wind, and earthquake insurance and bear the burden of losing their home to such events. If you can’t afford the insurance, you should consider not owning a home, or at least be ready to lose it without whining. Harsh? Not a bit. This country was built under such personal responsibility (and yes, harsh tragedy). Why do we need a nursery with nannies now?”
Pamela, absolutely, 100% spot on. The management of federal forests (National Forests and BLM) have been a joke for at least the last 20 years, wasting billions of taxpayers dollars, and mismanaging an extremely valuable, RENEWABLE natural resource right down the toilet.

LKMiller (aka treegyn1)
July 24, 2012 8:46 am

wsbriggs says:
July 24, 2012 at 5:48 am
“…The pine plantations in the South have far fewer wildfires than our national forests and it isn’t coincidence.”
Ummm…not exactly. I agreed with most of your post, but this isn’t quite right. Yes, the pine plantations in the southeastern US ARE much better managed than “public” forests in the west. However, when a thunderstorm rolls through Georgia in July it rains buckets.
When thunderstorms roll through John Day, Oregon in July, if lucky there might be a drop here, a drop there, but not enough moisture hitting the ground to make a difference. Dry cold fronts remain the major cause of large wildfire outbreaks in the west.
And while we’re on the subject, those of us in the west who make our living from the vast forests that surround us, are sick and damn tired of urban elites 3000 miles away telling us how these forest should (not) be managed. As Pamela pointed out, at a minimum, management of federal forests should be returned to the counties in which they reside.

July 24, 2012 8:55 am

In response to the remarks about the southern pine plantations…..
It is because the ground level fuel is burned off every 5 to 15 years. Even the Texas Forest Service does this in their own forest management. International Paper, Georgia Pacific, and others who manage some pine plantations near my home were burning understory fuel within a few miles of my home last summer when conditions permitted. Our drought was so intense, they recognized that as long as humidity coming up from the Gulf was high enough and winds were right, they could really get a good burn in the pine understory.
BTW, those understories are absolutely gorgeous this year due to the nutrient release, and nourishing rains we’ve had this year. There also are plants coming up that we don’t normally see unless an understory is burned.
I stand by my assertion that the best forest fire management system….. is fire.

Gail Combs
July 24, 2012 8:57 am

LazyTeenager says:
July 24, 2012 at 6:52 am
Do you want government to do stuff but you don’t want to pay for it with taxes.
So somehow if fire fighting is done by private companies it’s all going to be cheaper. I can’t imagine how that’s going to work.
If it is government land they are then responsible. on private land depending on the state, county or city you get told what to do. A friend has been told by Orange County NC that he may not cut down even one try on his ~ 60 ac. (I was doing some of the clearing at the time)
This is an example of what it mean.

…“They were labelled law breakers, fined $50,000 and left emotionally and financially drained.
But seven years after the Sheahans bulldozed trees to make a fire break � an act that got them dragged before a magistrate and penalised � they feel vindicated. Their house is one of the few in Reedy Creek, Victoria, still standing.
The Sheahans’ 2004 court battle with the Mitchell Shire Council for illegally clearing trees to guard against fire, as well as their decision to stay at home and battle the weekend blaze, encapsulate two of the biggest issues arising from the bushfire tragedy….

The firefighting protocols are just the tip of the iceberg in this issue.

Gail Combs
July 24, 2012 8:59 am

that is cutting a tree not try (Fumble fingers strike again)

Gary Barrett
July 24, 2012 9:00 am

I’m a Colorado native and have had a house in the forested front range for 30+ years and have followed wild land fire suppression fairly closely for some time. New chemicals would certainly help and every little bit helps but the critical deficiency in the process is the lack of air tankers to deliver the fire suppression chemicals. The history of air tankers is long and convoluted and not fun to read. The US Forest Service had 43 large air tankers under contract in 2000. Today they have 9 large air tankers under contract. Given the present budget and support, it is possible that 8 of the older P-2V tankers may retire faster than they can be replaced. That’s 9 large air tankers to cover the firefighting needs of the entire United States.
The military C-130’s that can be converted to firefighting capability with the 7 remaining MAFF system’s are not on standby [Air Guard assets require activation and unless Federally activated, they only serve their individual State’s requirements]. USAF Reserve aircraft are prohibited from responding until all available contract assets are being utilized. [US Economic Act of 1932]. The MAFF conversion system is not longer manufactured and the company that manufacture / maintained them recently lost its contract and closed.
US Forest Service budget for FY 2012: source US Forest Service web site
Suppression -46% [$ 485M] air tanker budget is included under suppression
State Fire Assistance – 36% [$ 25.6M]
Volunteer Fire Assistance -29% [$ 2.6M]
proposed US Forest Service budget for FY 2013:
Suppression + $78M [includes $20M to contract for additional large air tankers mentioned above]
State Fire Assistance -15% [$ 13.3M]
Volunteer Fire assistance – 10% [$ 1.3M]
There are additional details associated with the air tanker program and fire suppression but they do not promote any optimism that the program will serve national fire fighting needs. The Suppression budget shortfall would mitigate against but not excuse switching to Fire Ice to replace Phos-Chek if it is significantly more effective even if it is more expensive. However, given the penchant for cost-effectiveness studies in the government, someone has probably determined that it is not “cost effective” by whatever measures of effectiveness they decided to employ.
I believe the real problem is a critically underfunded fire suppression program, a paucity of fire suppression assets that isn’t going to get well for some time, and the unintended consequences of old public laws . Better chemicals won’t help if you can’t drop them on the suppression line.

July 24, 2012 9:04 am

If FireIce is that good at stopping a fire then even if it’s much more expensive than traditional fire retardants it ought to be cheaper overall to use to fight fires because fires would be limited in size and put out in less time thus costing less overall to fight.
The cynic in me thinks that there is a fire fighting industry that has a vested interest in having a certain minimum amount of fire acreage to fight each year to maintain their budgets and fire fighting jobs. Further I think all these prescribed burns we have around here are just “make work” projects to keep idle firefighters busy when there are no real fires to fight. The acreage burned in prescribed burns is so small compared to what potentially could burn that it’s hard to imagine that it provides the protection they claim it does.
I say let private industry come in and appropriately thin the forests, remove dead and down trees to produce whatever products they can.

July 24, 2012 9:06 am

I am a former Airtanker Pilot been in the business for ten years, may go back shortly.
I have been around various forms fo fire retardant, Liquid concentrate, GTS (gum thickened retardant.) used much in California, and various Fugitive or fading,type retardants. Fire Ice
has potential but as stated above it is very expensive for now.
also the lack of useful initial attack airtankers is a huge problem from 53 in 2002 to
nine or ten now. The super tankers VLAT’s like the DC10 and 747 are very useful for
containing a fire.but not for an initial strike. BTW I love the way CALFIRE does it. always
have, send’em out then think about it.. Resources at the fire then turn around the ones you don’t need expensive, yes but if it prevents a fire form going over the hill it saves money and lives..
The contactors for fire services Airtankers Helicopters, Air attack, Smokejumper aircraft,
all have provided services cheaper and more effective than the Government for near 70
years. It does work.
Question- have you ever loaded retardant or swung a Pulaski? Jumped out of an
airplane into a fire? Rode a pumper into maelstrom of Chaparral and mesquite?

Gail Combs
July 24, 2012 9:07 am

Faux Science Slayer says:
July 24, 2012 at 7:30 am
I responded as a volunteer….
Sounds familiar. I provided a semi trailer to collect goods for Katrina. FEMA did the same thing that time too. FEMA is all about protecting FEMA’s political turf and has nothing to do with actually helping people. If we wiped out FEMA completely the US citizens would all be better off.

Gail Combs
July 24, 2012 9:13 am

Rod Everson says:
July 24, 2012 at 7:43 am
…. But I guess there aren’t any pests in the Southeast? Or maybe they just have better management?
We have pests but the trees are generally better managed. Young forests are thinned and the material chipped and burned to generate electricity. Long leaf pine forests are harvested for the pine needle mulch. The tree stands are treated as a money generating crop just as an apple orchard is.

July 24, 2012 9:16 am

BTW- here is a video that is a great over view of what airtanker flying was and is
I have flown most of the Four engine Douglases in the video 60,62,66 of Butler Aircraft.
when I co-piloted for them
Know about 90% of the people that are in the video, too some still out there challenging
the old devil -fire -some retired, some dead.

July 24, 2012 9:20 am

Meanwhile, the largest firefighting tanker in the world, and based in the US, is not fighting fires here in the US. http://www.evergreenaviation.com/pdf/Supertanker_Statement_062912.pdf All because the Forest Service limits tanker size to 5,000 gallons and the 747 holds 20,000 gallons.

Gail Combs
July 24, 2012 9:20 am

rogerknights says:
July 24, 2012 at 7:57 am
Faux Science Slayer says:
July 24, 2012 at 7:30 am
You story could make a good political ad…Maybe the Tea Party could do something, albeit with amateur production values.
Sometimes amateur is actually much better because it is trusted more. Willi Münzenberg pioneered most of the manipulative political techniques. Ad hoc committees for endless causes, politicized arts festivals, mock trials, celebrity letterheads, disinformation stunts and protest marches all sprang from Münzenberg’s sheer genius for propaganda….Most of this army of workers in what Münzenberg called ‘Innocents’ Clubs’ had no idea they were working for Stalin.
Do any of those sound familiar?

July 24, 2012 11:43 am

Give me a Bucket of that Fire Ice, a pressure cleaner and point me towards the flames.

July 24, 2012 11:47 am

When FEMA or a lazy teenager(same thing) shows up,slap a chainsaw in one hand,a shovel in the other,and 40lbs of water on their back,and make it known where the fire is.They’ll slither off soon enough.
And as somebody said above,it is all political.But then maybe Solyndra and the gubermint have some secret guy standing by to make it happen for you?(oh wait)

July 24, 2012 12:04 pm

I have 2 words for those that choose to live in wilderness: Defensive space.
Note: I am a conservative opposed to bureaucratic meddling in natural forces (fire is natural to the West) and opposed to wasting resources in fighting these fires, particularly to defend the hypocritical dorks that build in wilderness and ignore DS logic.

Doubting Rich
July 24, 2012 12:05 pm

Wait – if they put the fires out how would they get the propaganda value from them? Surely that is worth more than people’s homes and lives.

July 24, 2012 12:28 pm

Put aside… Forget for the moment… Ignore… Disregard… Pay no mind… FireIce to the rescue.
No, Mr. Driessen, we should NOT ignore the long list of failures. We should examine the whole of them, as a body of failures. FireIce will not cure all that ails with our miserably inept Federal land and fire management. It is not a panacea nor even a small fix for gross, systemic incompetence. Perhaps you missed the BAN on aerial fire retardant of any kind forced upon the Feds by Judge Molloy.
What “millions of Americans” are watching is catastrophic failure by DESIGN. There is a war on the West being waged from Washington D.C. As with any war, it involves destruction and takeover, extreme suffering, power-mad generals, an army of belligerents, a disconnected Congress, and a designed plan to lay waste to the land.
Let’s approach this issue with open eyes, not with selective vision.

July 24, 2012 12:42 pm

Leave the source of the fire alone – it’s well documented that nature expects and copes with these events perfectly adequately and recovers all by itself.
The house owners INSURANCE companies should cover the cost of preventing the homes from burning using this fire-axe stuff (or the homeowners themselves can pay if they don’t have cover) – who has the most to lose here? (financially, not materialistically/memorabilia).

July 24, 2012 1:53 pm

Selective tree harvesting would reduce the fire hazard, add a little income for the U.S. Treasury, reduce the creation of more carbon dioxide from forest fires, and lock up the carbon with the lumber produced. Any guess why this common sense option isn’t being pursued? Enviroreligion dogma?

July 24, 2012 2:53 pm

This goop will only exacerbate the problem. The problem being: Too. Much. Fuel.
Nature has an interesting solution for too much fuel.

July 24, 2012 4:47 pm

Why should they put the fires out? This is what is supposed to happen.

Old woman of the north
July 24, 2012 5:10 pm

A friend’s son owns a rural property where his neighbour lit a fire that threatened him. He called in the local fire brigade. He was driving his bulldozer to form a fire break and instructed the brigade to back burn as he would be unable to return up a very steep slope.
The fire reached the break and jumped it and his property was burned out. He asked why they had not done the backburning and was told ‘ We fight fires we don’t light them!!’ The air was so blue they disconnected him from the two-way.
How on earth do you ‘fight’ a fire by allowing it to burn up to your feet and then expect to be able to put it out?

July 24, 2012 6:26 pm

Gail Combs, just out of curiosity, have you spent any time browsing around that site you linked to? Or was it just a clearly readable version of what you were attempting to show, returned from a search?
That site definitely has some… um… “interesting” reading…

Pamela Gray
July 24, 2012 6:30 pm

If counties were allowed to take control of federal forests, they would make sure this resource stays renewable, so overcutting would be squashed (they want jobs next year). They would also make sure fuel loads were kept to a minimum (they want jobs next year). They also would want employment to rise so they would make sure the resource was actually used (they want jobs next year). As it is, federal guv’mnt employees have their jobs in the bag complete with hottub conferences year after year so there is no incentive to actually work for their pay.
I tell you what, if I was running for pres and won, I would gut guv’mnt of all the intrusion into state and personal responsibilities, and stay out of people’s bedrooms, boardrooms, and baby wombs (take that “I can see Russia from my house”).
For example, I would make sure our dollar and exports, and our interstate roads and railways were topnotch. I would make sure our interstate mail got delivered and our military was ever ready to squash like a bug whoever hurts our folks, wherever they travel.
I would leave it up to states to police their own criminals, pollution, prostitution, drug laws, polluting-potential businesses, education systems, medical care, gun laws, catastrophies, and immigrant policies.
And because I am a multiple-card carrying concealed weapons’ permit red-blooded American, I would arrive at the oval office with a concealed weapon tucked between my Irish you-know-whats, ready to face the day’s phone messages. I would also hope that my White House chef knows how to cut up trout, steelhead, salmon, deer and elk, and prepare it just the way I like it. Sorry, I don’t think I will ever be able to get close enough to shoot a bear because for some odd reason, I am scared to death of them. But I do like bear meat very much.
However, don’t be lulled by my state’s rights stance, or my fear of bears. I totally believe in a Republic form of government where individual rights are to be upheld even if the majority don’t like ’em much. So beware if you wish to deny constitutional rights to an adult’s individual pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, even if you don’t like who they have chosen to bunk with. Besides, it’s none of your #$%^ business.
So how come we have such a weak-kneed presidential string of candidates????? I’m just a nobody but seem to have greater convictions than our current slate of candidates. They are either cowered by far-right religion, or cowered by far-left watermelons. Doesn’t anyboy ever run based on their individual convictions of freedom anymore? As far as I can tell, our current selection seems immune to the splinters they are getting in their arses from wriggling this way and that on the fence rail.

Pamela Gray
July 24, 2012 6:39 pm

anybody…I meant anybody

July 24, 2012 7:19 pm

FireIce is just another chemical additive that comes along every two or three years as far as I can remember back if 35 years in the fire service industry. The first I remember was Fire Out around 197?. If FireIce was worth it’s salt it would have UL approvals for Class A, FM Approvals, etc. It can petition the government for approval of its product but, until it has passed muster they are not going to spend time and money to deliver an unproven product to protect lives and property only to get sued later.
Instead of bellyaching to the press they should be going through the necessary channels to prove the product is effective.
Phoschek has been around for years and has predictable results. If your house is exposed do want them to try something new or use proven technology. If the technology failed, would the company be able to absorb the losses or would the homeowners be left with the bare minimum of compensation for the experiment done on their property?
If it really is as effective as they claim it will get adopted for use, eventually. First it has to live up to its claims in heavy testing and then, it will have to be tested to see if it harms the easily offended environmental organizations. Good luck with that.
Just to repeat, every few years another “miracle cure” comes around the corner. Usually they have a real slick way of marketing to the small town departments and sell their product. Most reputable fire equipment dealers won’t sell their stuff due to lack of approvals so they have to resort to that method. If FireIce is actually a good product it will make it through the process. If not, next year a new product will follow it. In fact, there are a couple of companies taking a stab it it right now.
Rinse, repeat.

July 24, 2012 8:17 pm

“New fire-fighting technology could help put them out. Why isn’t it being used?”
Only reason I can think of is that the powers-that-be don’t want the fires stopped. Not too soon, anyway. The lefts motto is ‘never let a crisis go to waste.’ They don’t want this crisis stopped too soon.

Dave Dodd
July 24, 2012 8:49 pm

@Pamela Gray: You would have my vote in an instant, dear Lady! I would add two tasks to your to do list: drain the swamp, sending the snakes a packin’, then turn out the lights in that monstrosity a few blocks away which has the gun statue with the barrel tied in a knot, known as the UN. Then we could ALL rest on the Sabbath!

Mark T
July 24, 2012 9:08 pm

My guess is that FireIce is just too expensive and and the fire fighting service is resisting due to budget limitations.

Yeah… $20M or so in firefighting costs plus probably $200M in property losses, not to mention the damage to the economy from so many displaced residents, lost wages from layoffs, and other miscellaneous costs. Certainly FireIce is too expensive.

July 25, 2012 3:01 am

Wildfire has been in existence since there were plants on the planet. So nothing new then so what is the problem?
Well people like living in remote areas surrounded by trees but forget the basics of prevention like clearing the underbrush anywhere closer than 50 yards from their properties, maintain a cleared band down to bare earth level. These will prevent ground fires spreading to the buildings. Wind blows fire is a problem and people do not want to clear trees up to 100 yards to the properties which I can understand.
As populations ruralize then wildfires will become more costly per fire due to damaged property numbers increasing.

July 25, 2012 6:33 am

Actually, Pamela, they are boys. Sissy boys. It is amazing to me that a carbon & healthcare tax scheming president with 3 1/2 years of 8%+ unemployment still leads his *uhumm* conservative rival by a full percentage point, according to latest Gallup, this far into it. The bum should be almost totally out of office already!

July 25, 2012 6:39 am

Faux Science Slayer – I responded as a volunteer to the ~18,000 acre,…
Would it be ok if I share that story?

G. Karst
July 25, 2012 6:47 am

Mark T says:
July 24, 2012 at 9:08 pm
My guess is that FireIce is just too expensive and and the fire fighting service is resisting due to budget limitations.
Yeah… $20M or so in firefighting costs plus probably $200M in property losses, not to mention the damage to the economy from so many displaced residents, lost wages from layoffs, and other miscellaneous costs. Certainly FireIce is too expensive.

Yes, that was an important part of my point. It would be a decision which will haunt someone for life. However, we do pay someone, to make exactly these types of decisions. Not a lot different than letting a fire grow, to access federal disaster funds. GK

July 25, 2012 6:54 am

Didn’t check ‘notify’

G. Karst
July 25, 2012 7:13 am

Faux Science Slayer says:
July 24, 2012 at 7:30 am
I responded as a volunteer to the ~18,000 acre

When I was a young man (long time ago), when a dangerous fire was about – the authorities would send police around to all the bars in the area, to round up (conscript) young men to fight fires. The pay was ok and the food was great, but everyone was wary of being in a bar when a large fire was raging.
There was no choice, so today, everything being politically correct, I guess such measures are not necessary. Thanks for volunteering (heartfelt) and keeping the press gangs away from our youth drinking in bars, in the middle of the afternoon (sarc). GK

July 25, 2012 10:32 am

@ Faux Science Slayer
That jives with what happened at my mom’s hometown. It was taken out by a large tornado. The community pretty much rallied, had the place well on its way to being cleaned up by the time FEMA showed up. The official sort of looked bemused when he saw everyone in town and the surrounding area pitched in and cleaning up (the town was more or less cleared and the debris was organized). He complimented them on their efforts, but still made them shift several debris piles around so he could measure them for his reporting. Thankfully, they were spared the full force of government “help” because they had managed to get most of the town cleaned up by the time the government arrived to “help.” They were also lucky that it wasn’t anyone’s election year, so no one felt any special impetus to hurry.

July 25, 2012 12:02 pm

I live in Cedar Heights, near the edge of Waldo Canyon, & Stanley/Williams Canyons, Pikes Peak national forest land. I drove up to the top of Cedar Heights to get an overview of the smoke/fire that started early Sat. morning, June 23, 2012. Hindsight being 20/20 of course, if there had been an immediate aerial response with helicopter bucket drops this Waldo Canyon fire might have been knocked down before it got out of control, saving countless $$$. With all the arson attempts in Teller County forests, the previous two weeks, one would have thought that proactive precaution would be in order. This was most likely the work of an arsonist since weather and lightning were non-factors, and this was essentially an inaccessible area. Going forward, a simple contract to engage helicopter services for fighting fires in forest areas that are inaccessible but abutting city/county residential areas would seem to me to be a very practical solution. How about some federal stimulus money being allocated for proactive mitigation of potential forest fires near city/county areas.

A. Scott
July 25, 2012 4:18 pm

The timber company’s are the best managers of woodlands around – not the evil monsters the treehuggers want people to believe they are. The understand that the forests are their only asset – if they do not properly manage those assets all their money “in the bank” burns or blows away. They do not treat these forests as a one time asset – they know, with proper care and management they will produce nearly forever.
They know that logging properly done IMPROVES the forest and overall improves the habitat.
Ask one of the idiots involved in Spotted Owl or similar activism what the Spotted Owls did when forest fires burned large areas of their habitats before we were around? Its simple – some perished, but most simply flew to another section. And when the fire was over their habitat was greatly improved – more forage for the little beasties that are their food and nice open flight areas for them to see and fly to catch them.

July 25, 2012 5:16 pm

Indeed, A. Scott.
When Mt. St. Helens was considered heading toward eruption Weyerhauser was logging near it, with helicopters in the air ready to evacuate workers. After the eruption they logged what they could and replanted. Years later their land had a growing forest, whereas nearby land in the park was only beginning to have vegetation emerge.
(An amusing sidelight was that a little observation bridge over a creek or pond was underwater because an enterprising beaver or two had made a dam – several miles inside the park. Not necessarily a wise move but they were active.)

July 25, 2012 5:21 pm

Yes, “aharris”, after a forest fire burned large parts of the town of Barriere BC (north of Kamloops), a local charity pointed the media to the many private organizations and individuals who had provided charity and explicitly noted the absence of government. (Granted, the province fought the fires and the federal government provided soldiers to help.)

Matt in Houston
July 26, 2012 8:20 pm

The geltech product fireice was featured on John Stossel’s show on Fox Business tonight 7/26. Nice to see that our friends here on WUWT are ahead of the curve. Not surprising, but it would be nice if the governments responsible for fighting all of these fires would actually put this information to work and save some people from unnecessary heartache and tragedy…I know asking government to actually perform above an abysmal level of competence is a lot. But here it is.

July 27, 2012 12:52 pm

Firefighting must become managed by private industries. The reward for putting fires out fast must be high, and the pay should be low for extended fires and the managers should be fired. It needs to be handled in a way that only business can revive.
As it is now, good firefighting is punished by retraction of funds as poor firefighting decisions are rewarded by increase of funding. We need to shut down the monopolist government and get free enterprise more involved.
Government monopolies are, foremost, self-motivated.

July 29, 2012 4:46 pm

Many of the residents fought tooth-and-nail to prevent the removal of the pine trees killed by the pine-bark beetle. There were many acres of land covered by these dead trees and they burnt like gasoline – flames going hundreds of feet into the air and spreading as fast as the wind blew it. Perhaps they should reconsider their stand on the removal of dead trees.

August 2, 2012 7:25 pm

This story really pisses me off. It is correct in the thought about government bloat and wastes…  
However, that chemical retardant is not available in the quantities needed everywhere in the country. For instance, during one 6 hour period in SD last week I personally watched between 150-200 airdrops within 1/4 mile of where I was actively working.  It was 109 degrees outside and the fire was rocking  The tanks and buckets from helicopters (Sky Cranes and Bells) were filled from a nearby lake. The turn around time between a dump and a refill was about 8 minutes for the Bells (300 gallons) and 15 minutes for the Sky Cranes. 
In the sales ad of a story they miss the key point that to use that material, you would first need to purchase 200 loads of material ($200 for five gallons) – one sky crane holds 2000 gallons!  Then you need mass (and mobile) filling stations. The cost of setting this up would be unreasonable and ridiculous. Then the set up time would not even be possible.
This article tells me that people are pissed about “the government” and wastes, but choose to attack using the recent wildfires.  That material retardant works and is actually used by communities, independent residents and insurance companies on a point protection basis. This appears to be a dick story. 
I am a firefighter and was at the Waldo Fire in Colorado Springs as well. Complete crap of a story.

August 3, 2012 10:26 am

Dear Firefighter Chad,
The actual costs (damages, losses) due to wildfires are 10 to 50 times the suppression costs. That is why fires are fought — to minimize the damages inflicted. That is the reason society funds fire suppression. It is not to provide make-work jobs to the otherwise unemployable.
You may not be aware (Driessen doesn’t seem to be) of the recent (last March) decision by a Federal judge (Molloy) to limit the use of fire retardants — not for reasons of cost but for alleged harm to fish. The irony (if you want to call it that) is that fires do far more damage to fish than retardant. Wildfires can boil streams. Ash runoff changes the pH. Erosion due to denudation can alter the biological dissolved oxygen and cover spawning beds.
Retardant can also save lives, including the lives of firefighters. But now, thanks to the Federal judiciary, your job is all that more dangerous. Alleged (and false) harm to fish trumped public safety. Your personal safety didn’t factor in.
That is what you should be concerned with, not “saving money” (also false) by not fighting fires with all available technologies.

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