In today's world we all think of fighter jets and bombers as being
something from World War 2. However, the bombers we are more likely to see
nowadays don't drop bombs. They drop water to fight fires. In large scale
fires, especially those that threaten settlements and town, being able to
drop large amounts of water onto the fires is urgently needed.
This is why these fixed wing aircraft and helicopters are so important.|
When you have a fire that works its way up or down a mountain, you may have no way of reaching it with conventional fire trucks. There may not be any roads first of all, but another factor to consider is that the fire is in a dangerous position for any fire fighter to go. It might on a sheer cliff face, or moving too fast for any fire fighter to make it there to fight in time.
Whatever the circumstance, water bombers are used to put out fires in these areas. Most of the water bombers used are helicopters with a huge buckets underneath. This scoops up water from a nearby river, lake, or even from the sea. This water is flown over the fire and released by the pilot onto the flames. This may seem like an easy way of putting out fires, but there are certain dangers involved as well.
First of all, with a huge forest fire you will find that the flames reach more than 5 meters high. This all depends on the kind of vegetation that is burning. The heat of course rises straight up and the helicopter has to be positioned directly over this heat to drop the water. The heat can be intense and even start to burn the pilot inside.
Another factor of water bombing fires is that the accuracy needed is so tight. Various things have to be taken into account such as wind direction and speed, as well as how far from the ground the water is being dropped. This angle must be calculated by the pilot whilst flying and he must keep adjusting this as the conditions change.
With fires breaking out, time is the most important things you have. You need to evacuate houses and you might also need to rescue animals and people. The fire can be contained only if all the fire fighters and water bombers are working accurately and quickly.
This means that the pilot must be able to fly well enough to be able to drop a bucket, scoop up enough water, return to the fire and drop it accurately. He has to do this over and over again with precision. This is a tiring and very stressful job.
With water bombing a fire, the other thing you have to think about is the actual helicopter. There will have to be some time for taking off and landing again to refuel. With large fires, this is why there are sometimes more than one helicopter working so that while one is fetching water, the other is dropping and when one needs to refuel, a second is sent up in time to carry on the work.