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versus 200° for unaided vision) is still enough to operate the aircraft safely. They can also look under the goggles when necessary to check controls and avionics, if necessary. Being prepared for night ops, even is also important, so


away from base,


they keep the goggles with the aircraft at all times, just in case.


ORANGE COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY


BEING ABLE TO HIT A FIRE AT NIGHT, AFTER DARK, WHEN IT IS LAYING DOWN DUE TO INCREASED HUMIDITY AND DECREASED TEMPERATURES OFFERS THE BEST OPPORTUNITY TO QUENCH FIRES MORE EFFECTIVELY THAN DAY OPERATIONS.


NVG GENERATION 4 The military is experimenting with


Generation 4 NVG and with Panoramic NVG, which incorporates four vision tubes instead of the standard two tubes, broadening the pilot’s view from 40° up to 95°. It is hoped that these improve- ments will reduce crew fatigue, while also providing sharper images in all light conditions. Perhaps public pressure over the


Orange County Fire Authority


(OCFA) currently flies two Bell 412 air- craft, and has two older UH-1 helicop- ters in reserve. They operate out of Fullerton Municipal Airport. They don’t operate on a 24-hour basis as of yet, but hope to in the future. As


with LA County Fire


Department and San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, OCFA operations slow down after nightfall and they, too, only do ground-fill firefighting operations after dark for safety reasons.


damage done by wildfires after dark (such as Southern California’s Station Fire) will finally persuade US Forest Service to venture back into night ops. If so, they will find a landscape radically transformed from the one they left behind in the 1980’s. At the same time, private contrac-


tors are entering the NVG arena, like Oregon-based Erickson Air-Crane, whose aircraft fight wildfires in many parts of


the US, as well as overseas.


Being able to hit a fire at night, after dark, when it is laying down due to increased humidity and decreased tem- peratures offers the best opportunity to quench fires more effectively than day operations. But the price tag ($30,000 to outfit


the cockpit, $11,000 apiece for NVG Generation 3 goggles) is a bit high


for small and medium contractors, so the switchover from exclusively day to day/night operations may take some time, not to mention a better economy. NVG has come a long way since


World War II. And with the increase in number and ferocity of wildfires, the need to battle blazes after dark, when they are more vulnerable, has a growing urgency. Of equal importance, other nighttime helicopter operations, such as search and rescue, Mercy Flights, and hoist rescue operations present an opportunity for private helicopter con- tractors to broaden their business. Who knows how this could transform the industry in another few years? ◆


Mike Archer has written articles for Wildland Firefighter Magazine, Home &


Fire Magazine, and Firehouse.com. He has been interviewed about wildfires by CBS News, KABC-TV, USA Today, and


Associated Press. He has also addressed wildfire issues as part of a delegation testifying before two U.S. House of


Representatives’ subcommittees, and members of the California State Senate. His ‘Firebombers Incorporated’ novels show how 21st Century technology could transform the wildland firefighting force. He donates 50% of net book profits to firefighter charities.


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