San Bernardino National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
602 South Tippecanoe Ave.
San Bernardino, CA 92408
On the Holcomb Fire near Big Bear, the US Forest Service has been utilizing firefighting aircraft both during the day and at night.
The public is most familiar with helicopters and airtankers, but the unsung workhorse in the sky that often is overlooked is the Air Attack plane circling high overhead, and in Southern California, the US Forest Service has the capacity to fly this aircraft both night and day.
While this aircraft can be rather un-assuming from the outside, it is loaded with high tech tools on the inside. This gives the Air Tactical Group Supervisor (ATGS) sitting next to the pilot the capability to provide incident commanders on the ground with a real-time tactical assessment and coordinating fire suppression actions visually, and with forward-looking infrared cameras in addition to supervising multiple helicopters, airtankers and lead planes over the fire.
The NightWatch ATGS and pilot are flying in a twin engine Beechcraft King Air 200 (Contracted through Dynamic Aviation) equipped with six radios, an integrated 3D moving map system, that displays and records aircraft positions, fire perimeters, measurements such as distance, elevation and latitude/longitude. The integrated system includes an Infrared Imager, Short Wave Infrared Camera, HD color camera, Low-Light Electron Multiplying Device, Eye-Safe Laser Rangefinder and Automatic Video Tracker to accomplish the mission.
The NightWatch Air Attack has been used on the San Bernardino National Forest numerous times since the 2013 Mountain Fire near Idyllwild and has become an innovative a highly effective tool to battle wildland fires.
Dynamic Aviation King Air 200 aircraft – Photo Credit Dynamic Aviation
NightWatch generated Holcomb Fire thermal image – Photo Credit USFS
NightWatch generated Holcomb Fire perimeter map – Photo Credit USFS