No reported injuries in aviation incident on Birch Creek Fire

(Fairbanks, Alaska) – No injuries were reported after an aircraft incident during suppression efforts on a wildfire about 120 air miles north of Fairbanks Tuesday afternoon. A BLM Alaska Fire Service dispatch center was notified at 3:56 p.m. of a incident involving a AT-802A Air Tractor Fire Boss working on the 15-acre Birch Creek Fire about 17 miles northwest of Circle. The Single Engine Air Tanker was one of six aircraft – four Fire Boss water scoopers, a helicopter and an air attack airplane guiding the suppression efforts – aiding eight BLM AFS smokejumpers on the ground. The aircraft was scooping out of an unnamed body of water about 2-3 miles north of the fire when the incident occurred. Two qualified emergency medical technician smokejumpers assessed the condition of the pilot, who was the sole occupant of the airplane and didn’t identify any injuries. The pilot was flown via BLM AFS helicopter to Fairbanks for further assessment at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and released. The aircraft was deemed inoperable and will be removed from the scene after further investigation into the incident.

The aircraft is owned by Dauntless Air Inc. of Appleton, Minn. and is one of four SEATs contracted by BLM AFS for Alaska’s fire season. All four were working on the fire at the time of the incident. The Department of the Interior Office of Aviation Services and the National Transportation Safety Board were notified.

The safety of the public and our firefighting personnel is paramount for wildfire response. Because Alaska is such a vast state, wildfire agencies rely heavily upon aviation support whether during suppression efforts or logistical assistance, putting aviation safety at the heart of wildfire response. The BLM AFS uses a combination of Bureau owned and contracted aircraft to accomplish its mission of providing safe, cost effective wildland fire response to all Department of the Interior and Native Lands in Alaska. In 2015, BLM AFS accounted for roughly one-half of all aviation hours flown by BLM firefighters nationally. BLM AFS’s aviation section was given the Department of the Interior Unit Award of Excellence of Service that year for accomplishing the monumental task of providing aviation support without any major incidents during Alaska’s second largest fire season in terms of the number of acres burned.

Contact BLM AFS Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907)356-5510 or eipsen@blm.gov for more information.

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About BLM Alaska Fire Service

The Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service (AFS) located at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, provides wildland fire suppression services for over 244 million acres of Department of the Interior and Native Corporation Lands in Alaska. In addition, AFS has other statewide responsibilities that include: interpretation of fire management policy; oversight of the BLM Alaska Aviation program; fuels management projects; and operating and maintaining advanced communication and computer systems such as the Alaska Lightning Detection System. AFS also maintains a National Incident Support Cache with a $10 million inventory. The Alaska Fire Service provides wildland fire suppression services for America’s “Last Frontier” on an interagency basis with the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Military in Alaska.

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