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Prescott hit by the feared fire (long)

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I volunteer for the Prescott Nat'l Forest. Everyone has been afraid, because we are having the worst drought in many years. From April 18th until yesterday, 118 illegal and abandoned campfires were found and put out in the Prescott Basin, which is mature Ponderosa pine forests in mountains.Apparently this afternoon, one campfire got away.The "Indian" (Indian Creek) fire went from 1 acre to more than 50 acres in less than 15 minutes, with southwest winds sending it toward the city of Prescott. Currently, it's about 2 1/2 miles south of downtown Prescott, actually on the edge of the city. About 700 acres have burned, 100 fighters on the line, and it's threatening 12 subdivisions of the city. My Forest Ranger brother-in-law is out, as a bulldozer crew boss, so his family and mine are pretty worried. 800 workers expected by morning.All afternoon I watched as tankers from the Prescott Fire Center dropped retardant. Using binocs, on many runs I could see the red stuff being dropped. I'm 19 miles straight north. Here's the view from my porch about 3pm. Tankers were dropping about every ten minutes, passing each other from the airport to the east (left).http://ftp.avsim.com/dcforum/User_files/3ce33c792e3e0192.jpgThere was some brief coverage on Phoenix tv, included topdown shots of tankers dropping, while listening to the lead plane & tanker talking. Helo coverage was from about 9000', while terrain is 5400' up 7700' mountaintops. The accuracy of those guys is simply amazing. You could see the consistent retardent tracks lining up. Helo pilot said they were as low as 150' AGL. I don't know about that, but they were LOW. I could see them flying behind and below ridges from my house. They were taking shortcuts across the city and over the Granite Dells to return to the airport. I heard one report five tankers were here. Two is the normal contract here, I think.I had a heartrate "bump" when one did a head-on run toward me, I watched the drop, and he dipped below the ridge between me and Prescott. A big "plume" of black smoke started up, which I hadn't seen on any runs. And, the plane didn't come up over the ridge like the two previous runs. That ridge is about 500' higher than downtown. But, the plume didn't appear to grow big enough for a 4 engine radial. About 2-3 minutes later he appeared quite a ways to the east on the way to the airport. Last time I saw smoke start like that was up close and personal at Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan when Captain Midnight augured his T33 during a series of air show low-level rolls. But his plume got much bigger.Here's a shot from a Prescott Fire Center pad, taken when I took my WWII pilot buddy "Goody" out to see the B17 & the only flying B24 that stopped here May 1. Tankers have been contracted here "in case" all spring. P3 Orions are the common ones. Also, I had seen the navy version of the B24 bomber here the week before (it has a single tail, the PBY??). This guy was here instead (they move around a lot).http://ftp.avsim.com/dcforum/User_files/3ce340143413611e.jpgDan Pursel

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>So, what's the latest Dan? You and yours okay?Never a doubt about my wife & I. Heard from my brother-in-law at 5:30pm, just got home "really tired". Been up for 36 hours.Did see bull-dozer shots on tv, don't know if they were "his". (dozers arrived at 10:30 last night).About 10am we went to an overlook just north of town near flightpaths to "plane-spot". I could see the airport and the fire area. Then went to the Forest office, and then up Spruce Mt. for a late picnic overlooking the fire from the east. We were above helios sucking up water from Goldwater Lake 2 miles east of the fire. 2000 gal. in 45 sec. (yes, that Goldwater was a Prescott fixture at the Palace Bar on Whiskey Row). Then drove out to the Fire Center at the airport where the five tankers and two skycranes had "stood down". Got N numbers. Took a bunch of 35mm, and 30 digital photos today that I haven't downloaded yet.While "officials" won't say it, the fire is under control. The coordination between ground, helios, and tankers was just amazing. I'm not afraid to say I think they saved the west side of the town, based on the speed and direction it was traveling about 5pm yesterday. You can see the retardant ringing the fire, and covering several houses that were saved. Today was immensely helped by very low winds. Plus, a lot of the burned area was recently "fuel reduced" which helped a lot. We've had a lot of 25-30 kt days this spring. If that had happened last night and today we might have lost hundreds of homes. Nothing but "forest sub-divisions" covering the hillsides just north of where the fire stopped. The seven "super homes" lost last night were right on this northern fire line in the "Cathedral Pines" development area. Close call.As usual, ask and you get more than you ever wanted to know. ;)Dan

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Dan, its good to hear things are looking good for you and yours.I really like the P-3 Aerostar/Aerounion paint scheme. Would love to get a flight on one of those. They are rocket ships. Weigh next to nothing. The tanker in the pic is the P-3's papa. A Lockheed P-2 Neptune. :-outtahttp://publish.hometown.aol.com/p3superb/images/675-2n.jpg

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That last bird you show looks like a modified B-26 with a couple of small jet engines attached. The B-50 bomber was a modified B-29 design with a couple of similar jets added to it. You can see examples of it at the USAF museum at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio.Jerry K. ThorneEast Ridge, TN.

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