Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spring Weather in Alberta

It was only a couple days after I finished the Tanker Base course, that we opened up the fire camp for the season.  There was still a bit of snow around, but the weather was warm and sunny and the remaining snow was melting fast.

My little office.


Lots of snow in the high country however, so even some normally road accessible lookouts had to be opened by helicopter.


Another location got a brand new tower and a new cabin last winter.  I made a quick trip up the tower for a look around.


Around home, the deer and moose are out looking for the first blades of green grass and fresh shoots.


Back near our work camp, Hailey has her sights set on fresh grouse.  Tough hunting while on a leash though!


All was going well, and the crews had even been dispatched to a few smoke reports.

Then the Alberta weather did an about face.


Lovely camping weather for sure!

But after a few days, the weather did improve somewhat, and most of the fresh snow melted again.  This muskrat near my house was finding a few new green shoots to snack on.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Big, Noisy, Shiny Aircraft

I see by the date that I’m a little early for posting again, as it hasn’t even been a month since the last update  Winking smile.

Well, most of the time Hailey and I were just hanging around at home, leaving the lights on, running the taps whenever we like, and taking showers as often as we please.  Well me anyway, Hailey is not that fond of water in large quantities.  And of course the big screen high-def TV has been getting some use too.  Taxes got finished and paid up – just under the wire, thanks to extended time courtesy of the Heartbleed bug!


The snow that was epic when we arrived back has been melting at an incredible rate, and now only a very few isolated drifts remain in the shade of the house, so Hailey has been out a bit, on the lookout, and rooftops, looking for where the mice are this spring.


Apparently, I didn’t do too badly at my job last summer and they invited me back again.  They started me off on a week-long course to manage a forest fire Air Tanker Base.

Normally, the course would have been held in Hinton, and Edson, Alberta, but do to technical considerations, it was held this year right close by in Rocky Mountain House.  This meant that I was able to commute home every night to see what Hailey had been up to.


The course itself had a lot of hands-on elements to it, which meant that we got to get very up close and personal to some pretty big, noisy, shiny, and impressive aircraft.  The idea of an air tanker base, is to have loading areas spread throughout the forested areas of the province, where these aircraft can load up with fire retardant to drop on forest fires in an attempt to hold them till ground crews and other equipment can get on scene.  In Alberta, these planes just pull up to the loading area, apply the brakes, and are filled with retardant with engines still running and props still spinning.  This makes for a quite interesting, dynamic, noisy, and fast paced environment. Loaders are wearing the same headgear as that used by US military on the decks of aircraft carriers.  I guess it is time for some photos!  Bird Dog aircraft fly to the fire ahead of the tankers to asses the situation, plan the drop, and guide the bombers in on their bombing run.  These are generally small, twin turboprop planes equipped with FLIR (infra-red cameras that can spot heat and flames through smoke and fog).


Ground crews prepare and await the arrival of the bomber.


Lines are connected, retardant tests are conducted to ensure the proper mixtures are supplied …


And the pilots are given the thumbs up to depart for the fire.


Since this was training for us and practice for the aircrew, we got to see the bombing run end of the equation as well!


Plain water was used for these training drops.


Now that ‘work’ has started again, Ms Hailey and I are back to living in the RV, and camping out – at least during our working shifts.  Who wants to live in a big ‘ol house all the time anyway!  Winking smile