Aviation awareness around wildland fires
Alaska firefighting agencies rely heavily on aircraft to fight wildland fires. The airspace surrounding these fires needs to be clear so that air operations can be conducted in a safe manner. Air tankers, helicopters and smokejumper operations may be in progress. The FAA issues a Temporary Flight Restriction, TFR, to notify pilots. Information on existing TFRs can be found at http://tfr.faa.gov. If a TFR is not in place, pilots are asked to treat it as if a TFR is in place. Keeping at least seven miles away from around the fire, usually from the surface to 5,000 feet above the ground level.
Aircraft intrusions cause aerial firefighting operations to stop until the airspace is clear. Wildland fire TFRs provide a safe environment for aricraft involved in suppression efforts. The restricted areas may have an irregular shape as the fire may not be contained within a circular radius. They are also unpredictable in that they may change with short notice because of the nature of the fire.
Pilots are asked to:
- Assume a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in place for seven miles around a fire, usually from surface to 5,000 feet above ground level. NOTAMs (Notice to Airmen) should be checked during all flight planning as TFRs are constantly changing. For graphical information on TFRs, please refer to: http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html.
- Avoid the area around a wildland fire even if there is no official TFR. Firefighting aircraft may be trying to respond to or suppress a fire. Intrusions may cause a delay to rapid response at a critical time and endanger flight crews and other firefighters.
- Report anything that appears to be a new fire. Fires may be reported to the nearest FAA Flight Service Station. The messages will be relayed to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, which may also be reached by phone at 1-800-237-3633. Or dial 911. If possible, please provide information such as map coordinates or geographical references.
- Be aware of heavy aviation traffic between BLM-Alaska Fire Service and Alaska Division of Forestry bases responding to fires.
As of Saturday, June 20, 2015, a TFR is in place for the following fires:
- The Stetson Creek and Juneau Lake fires near Cooper Landing.
- The Card Street Fire near Sterling.
- The Sockeye Fire north of Willow.
- The Healy Lake Fire 35 miles southwest of Delta Junction.
- The Whitefish Lake 1 Fire eight miles south of Kalskag.
Be alert for firefighting aircraft. Let’s keep our airspace safe!
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