Aviation
Thick, black smoke billows into the sky. Suddenly, across the dark horizon, an aircraft appears, dropping retardant onto the flames hundreds of feet below. It’s an image we see as we watch the news, hypnotized by the danger and the miraculous efforts of firefighting pilots as they maneuver their aircraft through the haze and ash to douse the blaze, saving lives, homes and landscapes. 
 
The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) aviation program plays a significant role in fire fighting efforts each year on public lands, not only across Arizona, but wherever pilots and firefighters may be called to duty throughout the nation. But the BLM’s aviation management program reaches far beyond its heroic firefighting efforts. The program’s mission includes supporting wildland fire and prescribed fire operations, disaster response, wildlife census, wild horse and burro operations, habitat management, range survey, cadastral survey, law enforcement, range land management, photo mapping and search and rescue.
 
To accomplish the fire program’s mission, pilots utilize a variety of aircraft including helicopters, Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATS), heavy airtankers, air tactical aircraft, smokejumper aircraft and large transport aircraft.
 

Fire & Aviation


fire mgmtThe BLM has developed air facilities in Kingman, Safford, and Weaver Mountain, to carry out the agency’s fire program. A remote air strip and facility have been established in St. George, Utah to ensure protection of the Arizona Strip Fire Zone. In addition, BLM pilots use aviation facilities at existing airports and landing strips. Potential locations and their capacities are analyzed at the local, state and national levels to determine if an aircraft base can support BLM aviation needs. When a base is identified, specialists work with local airport authorities and governmental entities to either use the site as a temporary base, or in some cases, to develop a permanent BLM aviation facility at the airport.
 
The BLM’s Safford aviation facility is located at the Safford airport in Safford, Arizona. This air facility provides support for helicopter and fixed wing operations as well as retardant support for SEATs.  An interagency air operations and dispatch center is located at the airport. Safford is also the host to the annual National BLM SEAT academy.
 
The Kingman aviation facility is located at the Kingman airport in Kingman, Arizona. This air facility provides maintenance for helicopter and fixed wing operations as well as retardant support for SEATs. The Weaver Mountain fire and aviation facility is located north of Wickenburg, Arizona.  This is BLM-Arizona’s newest air facility and is host to a helitack crew and helicopter which supports aviation operations throughout central Arizona.
 
The St. George facility is located in Utah at the St. George municipal airport.  This air facility is host to a helicopter crew and provides assistance to fixed wing operations as well as retardant support for SEATs.  The Arizona Strip also has a remote airstrip facility that is utilized by SEATs, helicopters and fire engine crews.
 
It is critical that BLM’s wildland firefighters have a variety of effective tools at their disposal. The agency has used SEAT firefighting aircraft for many years to perform outstanding work in sustaining wildland firefighting operations. The aircraft can utilize their inherent speed, mobility, and strength during initial and extended attack situations. SEATs are highly mobile and can be set up at remote bases and local airstrips, decreasing turnaround time between drops.
 
The BLM also utilizes commercial, charter, contract and federally owned aircraft to meet aviation needs. The bureau’s Aviation Management Directorate is responsible for the certification of pilots and aircraft used. Services are secured through formal exclusive use, Call When Needed (CWN) and Aircraft Rental Agreement (ARA) contracts.
 

fire mgmt

 
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