We are the first fire agency in Colorado to conduct night flying wildland operations, the first state in the US to implement a helicopter night flying suppression program and the first to use underslung bucket for suppression efforts. DFPC is in the process of evaluating if this is a viable mission. DFPC will make a long term determination if there is a need to fly fire suppression missions at night by performing operations when opportunities exist over the next three years. At this time, DFPC will only activate the night flying option when fire danger is "high" within the state of Colorado.
- ONE OF THESE FOUR ITEMS ARE REQUIRED BEFORE NIGHT FLYING OPERATIONS CAN BE SUPPORTED:
- Lives are or will be threatened.
- Structures are or will be threatened.
- Resources of significant economic value are, or will be threatened.
- Excessively high suppression cost will be prevented.
Because we have the capacity to fly anywhere in the entire state of Colorado, we must be safety-conscious: In other words DFPC will not go to any wildland fire just because we can, if there is no real benefit for the additional risk of night flying and we will not respond to a fire in darkness- we must be able to see the fire incident and dipe sight during the day to reduce the risk, by being aware and seeing any potential aerial hazards while in flight during suppression operations.
Helicopter suppression work at night can add an element of additional risk to pilots and ground personnel if not planned and performed in a safe manner. In specific situations, night vision suppression capability can be applied to aviation missions performed by public safety and firefighting agencies. The use of aircraft at night on emergency incidents will enhance public and firefighter safety, operational effectiveness, and fiscal prudence.
The Benefit of Night Ops
- Fire behavior is normally reduced at night which should improve the effectiveness of aerial water drop operations that have been occurring during the daytime and can be continued, hopefully to a point where the risk to assets overnight is reduced.
- Night water drops may provide the ability to target fires that have a strategic potential to impact communities or significant assets if left unchecked late in the day.