Hello all -- I must assume that I was added to this list for reason, so
here it is.....
In addition to being a renewable energy author, I have been a
firefighter for over 10 years. I am a paid consultant with a variety of
different fire departments, companies and agencies involved in RE safety
with fire in urban-interface situations. My article sidebar on off-grid
PV systems and wildland firefighting is in the current issue of Home
I think there are some serious misconceptions in some items in this post
(comments embedded in snipped text below):
Unstable airmasses are almost always involved in wildland fires. Then
once a wildfire becomes plume-dominated, the changes in air movement can
be drastic and violent. If a plume (the center of a Pyrocumulous cloud)
collapses due to changing weather conditions, downdraft winds of up to
(and over) 100 mph can start, blowing in all directions at ground level,
and firefighters have died and will die if not advised. What would a
straight downward wind burst of 100 mph plus for 10-15 minutes do to a
fully-laden kite water pumping system?
Kites could stem
The concept of applying water to a wildfire to extinguish it is a common
public misconception. All airborne firefighting resources (there are NO
exceptions) are used to buy time for firefighters on the ground, who are
cutting a wide fire line down to mineral soil using either shovels,
Pulaskis, chainsaws, and McLeods (or dozers and feller-bunchers and of
course the very vulnerable human sawyers and swampers).
The airborne resource (chopper, heavy tanker, SEAT) 'paints' precision
lines of retardant for the hand or helitack crew, so that they face 6
inch flame lengths instead of 6 feet.
In remote locations fuel supplies limit
How so? if a wildland fire incident moves even from local to Type 3, you
won't believe how much diesel and gas arrive on scene how fast at the
ICP. If it's so remote that no homes are threatened, then why even try
to put it out?
Not so with kites which extract energy on
Have you ever watched a Pyrocumulous cloud closely, or been underneath
one in person? I have. You have NO idea what it's like......Hmmmmm. I'd
LOVE to fly a kite with anyone under a Pyrocululous, but usually the
dire situation precludes such frivolity.
If I get on my radio and say "I need a SEAT right now to paint a line
between the head of the fire and this house that I am protecting" it's
here in under 30 minutes with 400 gallons of retardant. The drive time
for a 'kite crew' to my location is what? Takes over an hour drive from
town, even at code 3 response. Then add kite deployment time. After that
long delay, nobody will stop any fires in my remote, heavily wooded,
mountain area. The faster you hit a wildland fire, the easier it is to
put out. I'm talking minutes, not hours or days.
Helicopters are used in wildland firefighting as a "pinpoint" resource.
They can drop only a small amount of water, but within 10 feet of where
it is needed. AGAIN, dropping water on a wildfire to put it out is NOT a
real-world solution. It does not work. You don't have enough BTUs of
water to put out even a small wildfire no matter how large your airship
is. You instead drop water or retardant along open areas to make the
flames smaller when the hand crew arrives at the painted line to dig
real line. There are not enough C130s, 747s, and Sikorsky Skycranes on
earth to actually "extinguish" even a moderately sized wildfire with water.
A big chopper can suck 1000 gallons of H2O from a pond 15 miles away,
then dump it within a 10 foot radius of where the ground crew tells them
to, in under 30 minutes from the initial radio call from IC. How can a
kite do this? Wildfires are best fought within minutes of their
ignition, while they are small. Otherwise, all we can do is try to
Energy production is not an issue. Most fire apparatus have PTO
generators at 20kW and above capacity. In a truly remote situation, why
even put the fire out? To save trees? Themselves, the public, and
(lastly) homes are the (in order) priorities of firefighters. Why die
for a few trees? Dumping water on the trees won't help in the slightest,
it's all a war of BTUs.
Under what time frame could firefighting kites to lay fireline be
deployed? Minutes, hours, days? Who steers them? The "painted" fireline
must be precise within 100 feet at worst to save a home. Where does the
water come from? If there's a big water source nearby, it's much cheaper
to deploy gasoline portapumps at each residence with a sprinkler system.
Kite lifted & driven aerial
Wildfires move FAST. How does the FFkite deployment time (including
driving to the usually remote area of the fire) factor into this? Looks
to me before you get the kite crew out of bed, the required fireline
distance that would need to be covered could be miles, and the
deployment time measured in days or weeks.
A giant kite, kite-tail, or line-laundry might work
Only if it works. If not, your FFs are is BIG trouble and risk of death.
An improved helibucket could work like a
Huh....around my neck of the woods, the nearest big water source (a
lake) is 15 miles away, surrounded my high, rugged mountains and a deep
You are saying you could actually fly a KITE 15 miles away from my
place, dip water with a Bambi bucket, then fly it back to my house and
dump a fire line with 100 foot precision between my place and the head
of the fire? Amongst mountain peaks 2000 feet high?
Not sure if that's what you mean, but if so, well don't be surprised at
my reaction. If there's a wildland fire and I'm IC, I need a precision
line of retardant painted RIGHT NOW (under an hour response time at
most). I have no clue how you could do this with a kite, especially
considering my response area is 126 square miles of high mountains
(10,000 feet plus) and deep canyons.
Thanks for the post and opportunity to reply, but I remain most skeptical --
co-author, "Homebrew Wind Power" 978-0-9819201-0-8
Contributing author, Home Power Magazine, Back Home Magazine, Lighting
Today Magazine, and more.