co | co wildfires

Dome Fire, Boulder, CO, USA - 29 October 2010

After the article I covered on the recent Colorado wildfires I still hadn't managed to catch a heavy tanker in its element dropping its load. We see a lot of photos from California covering fires but in Colorado roads become closed very quickly, and as a lot of the fires are in mountainous terrain it sometimes only takes a single road closure to cut-off any photographic opportunities.

I was given a heads-up by my good friend Louis that a fire was burning near to Boulder. A quick scan of the news feeds and I found mention of a single heavy working the fire very close to the town. I knew the perfect spot to shoot this if my suspicions of the location were correct so I set out to see what I could snag.

On the drive to Boulder I could clearly see that the smoke was coming from exactly where I suspected so I made my way to Flagstaff Mountain.

The road at the base of the final climb to the peak of had its gate closed so I would have to climb the final 0.6 miles with all my camera equipment. In places it was as steep as the climb up to the Bwich in Wales except the start of the climb is already at over 6000 feet. I took Ute Trail which turned out to be much steeper than if I'd walked up the road, and I'll be first to admit that it took all my breath away so much so that I needed to rest half way up before getting to the peak at 7,283 feet. Luckily during this time both the tanker and the Lead Aircraft had to refuel back at Rocky Mountain Metro Airport (RMM) which gave me a nice window of zero activity to make the climb.

The show started below me as the Lead talked to the airtanker about how and what they were going to dump the retardant on. It was really good to see the complete flight profile right in front of us as the airtanker followed the King Air and dropped its load. There was also a Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) in the form of an AT-802A Air Tractor helping to drop retardant lines around the fire.

The P-2 had flown from Grand Junction to fight this fire and after his last load he headed back to that airport.

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