- Dear Jeff
- I was wondering why there is no outcry demanding to have
this airplane come over here and deal with the California fires? Maybe
if we make a stink, we can embarrass enough people and something will get
- Forest Service Ignores Offers Of Russian Help With Fires
- By Sarah Foster
- c. World Net Daily and Pravda.ru
- August 28, 2002
- The given article is published within the framework of
the agreement on cooperation between PRAVDA. Ru and WorldNetDaily
- 11,000-gallon tanker plane pours 'too much water,' officials
- The gargantuan Biscuit wildfire in Southern Oregon has
now engulfed just under half-a-million acres since lightning ignited it
and other western wildfires in mid-July. The magnificent 180,000-acre Kalmiopsis
Wilderness within the Siskiyou National Forest resembles a moonscape. The
rare plants, the wildlife, the trees that made the Kalmiopsis a special
place v are gone. And the U. S. Forest Service says it cannot predict when
the fires will be completely out v maybe in a month or two when the rains
- "This should never have been allowed to happen,
and it need not have happened," says Tom Robinson, 55, a fire administrator
and instructor of fire prevention with the Virginia Offices of Fire Programs
and Emergency Services in Richmond, Va.
- Since 1996, Robinson has been waging a campaign to build
public support for the deployment in this country of a Russian-made air
tanker, the Ilyushin-76TD v nicknamed the "Waterbomber" v a rugged,
airborne behemoth that can haul 11,000 gallons of liquid to a fire, nearly
four times the carrying capacity of the C-130 Hercules, the largest tanker
used by the Forest Service.
- At the invitation of its officials and to facilitate
the acceptance of the IL-76, Robinson serves as volunteer international
liaison, an official representative of the Russian Federation and its Ministry
of Emergency Situations v EMERCOM v the Russian counterpart of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency. EMERCOM is the agency that actually owns the
- Robinson sees the IL-76 as a much-needed strategic weapon
for the nation's firefighting arsenal. He is convinced that had it been
called in when the Rodeo, Hayman and Biscuit fires began raging out of
control, they would have been squelched before they became mega-blazes.
- "Frankly, I'm outraged," says Robinson. "This
has been going on over six years. The Forest Service has refused to allow
this plane into this country for fire fighting. It's a modern aircraft,
a four-engine jet. It covers an area the size of 12 football fields with
- 10-second drop [of liquid v water or retardant]. It puts
a fireline down 300 feet wide and 3,900 feet long in 10 seconds. It would
have saved every community in Colorado and Arizona this year. It would
have saved those 300 homes in Los Alamos two years ago."
- Robinson said that two years ago during the Cerro Grande
fire near Los Alamos, EMERCOM had two planes sitting on the runway in Moscow,
fully crewed, each plane having three eight-man crews, ready to take off.
They had been requested by FEMA, but at the last minute, FEMA told them
they weren't needed after all.
- The Associated Press reported that then-District IX FEMA
director Buddy Young went to the fire and publicly announced, "You
will not bring the Russian planes in here: We're not having any Russians
coming here and fighting our fires."
- But in fact, Robinson pointed out, this has nothing to
do with the IL-76 being Russian-made and owned.
- The Canadians have their CL-215 tankers and CL-415 SuperScoopers.
They developed the CL-215 v which Robinson considers superior to anything
the United States has v in 1967, and they've been rebuffed by the Forest
Service for 35 years.
- "They have not been able to come in and compete
for Forest Service contracts because they are not a private contractor
association," Robinson explains. "They're part of the Canadian
government. It's a quasi-private, public-private partnership, but the Forest
Service does not want its contractors to face outside competition."
- According to Robinson, the only place Canadian planes
are used for firefighting is in Los Angeles County, which leases two of
them every year and has for about 10 years, ever since the Malibu canyon
- "The county figures, 'We can't trust the Forest
Service to be here.' It was a mass debacle where they lost billions of
dollars and all those multi-million-dollar Malibu homes. One insurance
company lost $100 million in two hours."
- Robinson admits to being a "crusader" and even
- "That's because I've flown on missions on this plane
v I know how good it is," he says. "This plane is ten times bigger
than the average tanker they're using in Arizona and Colorado and Oregon,
and because it's so heavy it can fly in windy conditions where smaller
planes would be grounded."
- Designed in the early 1970s for military transport, since
the end of the Cold War the IL-76 has been used extensively throughout
the world by different countries as a cargo carrier. In order to fly firefighting
missions, it is retrofitted with two aluminum tubes, each one
- 90-feet long, four-feet in diameter, and capable of holding
5,500 gallons of water v a total of 11,000 gallons.
- Unlike American tankers that have a pressurized system
to dispense the retardant, the Ilyushin has a simple, virtually "bug-free"
gravity-flow system. However, this system requires the aircraft to fly
straight and horizontal.
- "The plane will be flying, say, 150 feet above the
ground, at 151 knots [173 mph]," Robinson explained. "The water
comes out at the same speed as the plane, as one big sheet of water. But
when it gets about a hundred feet above the ground, it slows and comes
down as a drenching rain. It's a big blanket of water that comes down vertically
in much larger drops [than in the American pressure system]. It's so effective
the Russians don't even use fire retardant in it."
- The Russian Federation has offered on several occasions
to send the plane v or a pair of them v to the U. S., where it could demonstrate
its effectiveness on one of the larger wildfires. They ask only for the
cost of fuel and food and lodging for the crew. But officials in the USFS
have consistently said thanks, but no thanks.
- Robinson hopes that this year v with more landscapes
than ever blackened by fire v the Forest Service will break its long-standing
opposition and agree at least to test the aircraft.
- But he is not holding his breath. The Forest Service
is adept at deflating any interest a politician or member of the public
might show in the Waterbomber, and officials of other agencies are likewise
skeptical of its value in firefighting.
- "We are not interested in buying or using the IL-76
for several critical reasons," Forest Service spokesman Joe Walsh
told the Colorado Springs Gazette in June, at the height of the Hayman
fire. "The plane would not meet our firefighting needs."
- Walsh said the Forest Service has enough air tankers,
"despite what commanders at many of the fires are saying. We're in
good shape. We're not having any problems with our resources. We don't
have any need for it."
- The plane is "too costly and lacks ability to make
downhill drops, a necessary maneuver in fighting fires in the mountains.
It actually drops too much water."
- "It's like wasting water," Walsh said. "Water
is not a commodity we can just dump hundreds of thousands of gallons of
and not worry about running out, especially in drought conditions."
- USFS aviation official Ed Stone shares Walsh's views.
"We've had contact with this aircraft since 1994," Stone told
ABC News in August 2000. "In the fires of 1994 there was intense political
pressure to use it and bring it in, when we were actually holding [our
own] planes down. We looked, and we didn't care for the product,"
- Dennis Lamun, head of Bureau of Land Management's Fixed
Wing Program at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, is
- "The only thing the IL-76 has in its favor is that
it's big," Lamun told WorldNetDaily. "Not that it's sophisticated
or technologically advanced, it's just that it's big. We build big airplanes
in America, but we don't go out and tank them because they don't fight
fire very well."
- "Bigger isn't necessarily better," he added.
"The Forest Service has more 3,000-gallon, Type 1 air tankers than
BLM does, but our philosophy at BLM is that we'd rather have two airplanes
carrying 2,500 gallons each, that can go in two different directions, than
one airplane carrying 5,000 gallons, because if I want all 5,000 gallons
in the same spot, I can get it.
- "We have 54 600-, 700-, and 800-gallon airplanes,
and we want more of them, and it isn't because we're ignorant that we don't
trade all those smaller airplanes in for one big 10,000 gallon one. It's
because we know what we want because we fight fire for a living."
- In addition to his work for BLM, Lamun heads the Interagency
Airtanker Board that represents air tanker contractors and federal firefighting
agencies. It is responsible for setting criteria for air tankers and overseeing
the certification process.
- Robinson never expected such a degree of opposition when
he became involved with those trying to bring the Ilyushin into this country.
- "I thought it would be easy," he said.
- In 1996 he was invited to join Global Emergency Response
v a Canadian-Russian-American joint venture, created to sponsor the IL-76
in disaster mitigation around the world. The idea of a company that would
arrange the leasing and use of the aircraft was the brainchild of Tom Edmison,
president of Total Corporate Aviation Services, a Calgary-based aviation
- Formerly a chief pilot for Gulf Oil, Edmison had routinely
flown a B-727 back and forth between Calgary and Russia for oil crew changes.
On those runs he got to know the Russians and became familiar with the
IL-76, "a marvelous, versatile workhorse."
- "When I started this I said to myself 'this is really
something,'" Edmison recalls. "Here's a chance to do something
entrepreneurial v and it's got peace and the environment written on it.
It served everything: It was good business, good for the environment, and
it has a tremendous peace message."
- He was surprised when the Forest Service didn't see it
that way and began placing roadblocks in the way.
- Because of Robinson's contacts in the fire prevention
community, Edmison and EMERCOM officials approached him, figuring that
an American would be able to overcome bureaucratic objections to the IL-76.
He agreed to serve as the fledgling group's chief administrator. He's made
some progress among politicians, the media and the public, but the door
to the Forest Service remains closed.
- Part of the problem may be that few Americans v including
Forest Service personnel v have actually seen the IL-76 in action. That's
not the fault of the Russians or Global Emergency Response. In particular,
the Forest Service has shown a singular lack of interest. It has not tested
the plane, though in Sept. 1994 v upon an invitation from GER v it sent
two specialists to a demonstration at an air show at Bascomb Downs, England,
to look the plane over and observe it being put through its paces. They
were outnumbered by some
- 20 members of the media, including the BBC and Associated
- Aviation specialist Joe Madar was enthusiastic, reportedly
cheering, "My, God, will that thing ever stop dropping water. Perfect,
perfect," as the tanker poured out its cargo of water in two passes
before the grandstand.
- After the demonstration, Madar told a reporter he thought
the aircraft could have been effective in the then-recent fires in California,
Nevada and Colorado.
- The enthusiasm is lacking in his later written report,
though Mader noted that the plane could be useful as a "supplemental
- 'Miracle' in Greece
- WorldNetDaily could find no one within the federal agencies
who has actually seen the IL-76 in action. Apparently not one Forest Service
or BLM ranger or fire fighter has decided to take a closer look.
- Robinson has. And it's that experience he says that changed
him from being an enthusiastic supporter into a "zealot."
- It was in 1999, and Greece was enduring its worst wildfires
in over a century. Infernos were raging in the mountainous terrain, and
winds were so fierce the air tankers of the Greek Air Force were grounded.
- As he tells it, "There were two 3,000-foot-wide
fires that were going unabated because of windy conditions through the
mountains, burning all their monuments and forests. CNN was there and said
it was unstoppable. But we filled up at the Greek Air Force base, then
went to the first fire. We flew by on an observation run, came back around,
lined up on the fire, judged the wind direction, opened the doors on the
tanks v and whoosh v 10 seconds later we looked back and that 3,000 feet
of fire was gone, absolutely gone."
- That took care of the first fire. The pilot returned
to the base, the tanks were refilled, and they went to the second fire
and put that one out just as quickly.
- "These fires had burned for a week, with hundreds
of firefighters and all kinds of equipment brought in from Germany and
other countries," said Robinson. "The Greek media called it a
- Though it convinced Robinson and the Greek public, the
Greek government decided against future use of the Waterbomber, preferring
instead to invest in a fleet of planes at $25 million each.
- Florida burned
- In June 1998, Flagler Country in northeast Florida was
ablaze. Fires were so bad the Daytona 500 had to be cancelled. Half-a-million
acres were eventually devastated and several hundred homes destroyed. A
standard criticism about the IL-76 is that it won't work in mountain areas:
Flagler County is pancake flat.
- On June 22, EMERCOM made an offer to then-Gov. Lawton
Chiles to bring in the Waterbomber and a crew. The plane would have been
in Florida within 48 hours, Robinson said. All the Russians asked was that
the state cover the costs of fuel and maintenance for the aircraft and
food and lodging for the crew. A cap of $500,000 for 30 days was placed
on the mission.
- At first, everything seemed to be moving without a hitch.
The state of Florida said OK. Both the Federal Aviation Agency and the
State Department gave their approval. The Florida Air National Guard was
going to host the aircraft and its crew at Patrick Air Force Base.
- Suddenly the governor decided against the offer, and
the whole thing fell through.
- At a press briefing Chiles tried to justify his decision.
"The Forest Service told me that the plane was so big and carries
so much water it would destroy homes and kill the firefighters," he
- Do people really believe this?, Robinson says he wondered
- Not everybody, surely. Though the Forest Service would
like to see it go away, the IL-76 has picked up supporters, including members
of the firefighting community.
- James Harrison is a battalion chief with the Santa Barbara
Co. Fire Dept. in southern California. In his nearly 40-year career as
a firefighter he's fought both structure fires and wildfires.
- Harrison said he became aware of the IL-76 a couple of
years ago v he does not recall the exact date v when a group of Russians
came to the United States at the invitation of the U. S. State Department
for a week-long session of disaster-preparedness workshops between officials
from EMERCOM and local American counterparts.
- Harrison met the man who developed the IL-76, and became
friends with the head of EMERCOM. They showed him a four-minute video clip
of the plane taking off and making water drops.
- "All I can say is if the planes are half as good
as what this man says they are, we should at least give them a chance,"
- Harrison followed through by reading all the articles
he could find about it, and so far has seen nothing that would make him
change his mind.
- Asked if he thought the amount of water discharged is
not really a good thing, Harrison laughed.
- "I think you need to be able to put it where you
want," he said, and added, "That's why I'd like to be able to
test this aircraft. I'd like to see the thing at work, because they [the
Russians] tell me they can put it wherever you want. They tell me that
they can put it in a line almost a mile long, and they tell me they can
put it very wide for half a mile."
- Would he find that useful as a fire professional?
- "Absolutely," he exclaimed, and added that
he didn't think being able to haul and drop 11,000 gallons "could
possibly be a drawback."
- "I know the Forest Service disagrees with me, and
I disagree with them," he said. "Whichever. But I don't understand
why there's anything other than a political reason that I'm not aware off
v that we wouldn't at least bring that plane over here and try it."
- Sarah Foster WorldNetDaily ©1999 "Pravda. RU".
When reproducing our materials in whole or in part, reference to Pravda.
RU should be made.
- From Starfleethighcom@aol.com
- Let us swallow our pride, admit our mistakes, and start
doing the right thing. The only reason why it is not allowed to be used
here is because of the NIH mentality of our fellow americans. NIH stands
for "not invented here" mentality. Politicians are like that,
they wanted something homemade that they can use as a vote getting and
campaing fund getting project (from contractors who'll get the big bucks
and expresses their thanks in the form of campaign fund contributions).
And the minute somthing went wrong, off they go to the "blame shifting
and passing the buck" merry-go-round strategy inorder to avoid their
- From Lars Vonpacker
- These CL-215s seem to have been ignored, too.
- Quebec offers more aid to California MONTREAL - Quebec
is offering increased aid to authorities battling severe wildfires across
southern California, where flames stretch from the Mexican border to Los
- The province already has a contract to supply Los Angeles
County with two water bombers each fall. But the government said it is
willing to send more planes if the state asks for help. Gerard Lacasse,
a spokesperson for SOPFEU, Quebec's fire protection agency, said the province's
two water bombers have already been called into action. He said that Quebec
is willing to send up to three more planes if necessary. "If we have
a request for any resources we're going to look at it," said Lacasse.
"And if they need water bombers like we have here, it's going to be
possible because we have a lot of those machines right now available because
the fire season is over here."
- The fires in California have already destroyed nearly
2,000 square kilometres of land and have made their way to the suburbs
of San Diego and Los Angeles. Lacasse said that Quebec is currently seeking
contracts with other municipalities south of the border to maximize the
use of the province's planes.