Brian Dunbar Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1547


July 20, 1995

David Morse Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA (Phone: 415/604-4724) RELEASE: 95-116 NASA C-130B AIRCRAFT HELPS FIGHT SCOTTSDALE FIRES A NASA research aircraft played a critical role in fighting a major fire that threatened life and property in the Scottsdale and Fountain Hills areas of Arizona recently. The plane, a C-130B based at Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA, was in the area collecting geological data as part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. The plane was equipped with a host of data gathering devices and photographic equipment, including thermal scanners able to penetrate thick smoke and clouds. Observers on the plane saw the fire while on approach to Phoenix on July 8. Mission manager Chris Jennison obtained clearance from Ames to document the fire and assist local emergency management personnel. Three high altitude flights with the ability to cover a wide area were immediately flown and data was recorded on videotape. These tapes were delivered to Scottsdale officials upon arrival at Sky Harbor airport for the use of the incident commander for the fire, Jeff Whitney. "NASA played a direct role in controlling the 23,000-acre fire which threatened the communities of Scottsdale and Fountain Hills this weekend," Wilson W. Orr of the Scottsdale City Manager's Office said in a letter to NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin dated July 12. "The C-130 based at Ames Research Center was made available with its unique instrumentation capabilities which include infrared sensors capable of fire detection. This use of 'Mission to Planet Earth' resources to help us manage local emergencies for the

preservation of life and property is a significant return on taxpayer investment. We appreciate the practical value of this program." -more-2Instruments aboard the C-130B have the capability to penetrate both smoke and darkness and peer into hidden canyons. In this way, the aircraft can provide visual evidence of the existence and location of dangerous remaining hotspots on its black and white video monitors. Scottsdale officials requested additional help with flights before dawn July 9. Local mapping experts and other observers aboard the C-130B were able to record changes and significant events within the fire perimeter and transfer that information to command maps for rapid distribution to fire fighting personnel. "We were able to get crews out there and douse those hot spots," Colin Williams, a spokesperson for the Rural/Metro Fire Department, told a local newspaper. "To find a hot spot in the middle of a 23,000-acre fire would be impossible. But because of the aerial maps, this whole fire will probably be out today (July 9)." "With pre-dawn flights, we were able to accurately identify the fire perimeter showing overnight changes in fire intensity and spread," Orr said . "This was invaluable information in deploying limited resources to protect threatened life and property. The C-130 crew also identified a two-mile change in the fire front which let the fire team deploy this morning with greater accuracy and safety," he said. The C-130B has helped local officials handle emergencies before. This crew mapped the Mount St. Helens region after its eruption in 1980. It has assisted with brush fires threatening several California cities, most notably providing thermal and mapping information to ground crews fighting the massive, destructive Oakland Hills fire in late 1991. - end -

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