FLORIDA WILDFIRES

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

 

2,282 fires for 500,000 acres burned in Florida between June 1st and July 22nd.

 

130,000 people were evacuated from their homes in what may have been the largest wildfire/urban interface wildfire campaign in U.S. history.

126 homes destroyed, 211 homes damaged

25 businesses destroyed, 8 businesses damaged

86 vehicles burned

 

10,000+ personnel from 47 states assisted in fire suppression efforts

124 fire related injuries to firefighters - No major injuries or fatalities.

 

AVIATION

 

Largest deployment of tactical aircraft for wildfire suppression - 154 tactical aircraft.  Air bases set up at Tallahassee, Lake City, Deland, Titusville, Brooksville and Sebring.  (Note - Yellowstone fires had 117 assigned tactical aircraft).

 

All wildfire Type I (Large Heavy-Lift) helicopters in the lower 48 states were committed to firefighting in Florida.  In addition, Florida Army National Guard had six Blackhawks and eighteen air tankers assigned to support ground suppression resources. 

 

Aviation resources were critical in containing fires and reducing the number of structures lost in  urban interface areas.

 

AIRSPACE COORDINATION

 

(Temporary Flight Restrictions were issued under FAR 91.137 (a)2  to provide a safe environment for the operation of disaster relief aircraft).

 

BLM/USFS Airspace Coordinator assigned to Area Command on July 1st to coordinate all Temporary Flight Restrictions within the State of Florida for Wildfires.  Central point of contact (Florida Wildfire Airspace Coordinator) streamlined the process by acting as focal point for all FAA and TFR coordination.

 

Liaison established within FAA Southern Headquarters (Lacy Wright) provided Florida Wildfire Airspace Coordinator crucial link in coordination.

 

 


Florida Wildfire Airspace Coordinator prepared daily TFR briefs that were faxed to 63 offices and individuals including ARTCC, FSS, Towers, AOPA Pilot Hotline,  National Broadcasting Pilots Association, DOD Bases, MILREPS (AFREP, NAVREPs and DARRS), Air Tanker Bases, Helibases, Incident Management Teams, USFS Hqtrs and FAA Hqtrs.

 

Complications for Wildfire coordination:

Large presence of General Aviation Pilots

ABanner Alley@ - Banner Towing operations

Flight schools, Sky Diving Schools

General Avn pilots accustom to flying lower altitudes due to Fl.  geography

Media presence

Presidential Visit

Multiple airports within TFRs

                              FAR 91.137 allows airport operations to continue (VFR Traffic).

 

TFR=s were discussed daily at the Air Operations Branch Directors Conference Call.  Air Operations directors facilitated airspace coordination through their willingness to reduce or modify TFR=s in size, configuation and altitude to accommodate local commercial traffic for such activities as ABanner Alley@, Sky Dive Schools, Flight Schools, Media Requests, Mosquito Authority and Law Enforcement requests.

 

TFR=s were combined to enhance safety and improve management.  14 TFR=s were combined on July 4th and replaced by a single large TFR on the Florida east coast.

The large A Coastal@  TFR was modified 5 times for size and altitude reductions and was reduced to two smaller TFR=s on July 13th and was closed on July 17th.

 

Five FAA Temporary Towers were deployed to assist aviation coordination.

The newly issued National Firefighting Transponder Code (1255) played crucial role between fire suppression pilots and FAA Controllers.   AFly Clear of Wildfires or Smoke@ posters were faxed to all affected Airports.  

 

Cooperation with Department of Defense was extraordinary - With few exceptions, DOD aircraft stayed away from wildfires. 

 

Helibases were moved to accommodate Glider operations at Hurlong Airport and Sky Diving Operations at Deland.

 

FAA Attitude and assistance was OUTSTANDING - proactive and generous in their assistance.  Pilots and Air Tanker Pilots asked that ATC controllers be commended for their assistance.

 

For further information, Call Julie J. Stewart (USFS/BLM Airspace Coordinator) at 503-808-6728 or Email her at j5stewar@or.blm.gov