Fight Wildfires Sustainably

Fight Wildfires Sustainably

Sustainability For Life

Fight Wildfires Sustainably

“There is an eco-friendly solution to the increasingly damaging wildfires in the U.S.”.

H. William Clark

Note: Communicating this information as news to others is free of charge.7

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  • From many sources, it is clear Global Warming is increasing destructive wildfires, especially in the western U.S. (1)  (2)
  • It is estimated 776,000 homes in the western U.S., worth approximately $221 billon are at extreme risk of wildfire damage. (3)  (4)
  • In a recent year, U.S. wildfire damage totaled $24 billion. (5)
  • Fire retardants are coming under increased scrutiny as being harmful to the environment. (6)
  • The impact on families (physical, emotional, and financial) must be considered.
  • This presentation takes a fresh look at the problem, and offers an eco-friendly solution.
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An Objective Basis for an Expanded Solution

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  • Examining the situation objectively, from an engineering project management viewpoint, yields the following:
  • Across the next 10 years, assume the annual losses from western wildfires is $18B, which is conservative.
  • Assume these losses are occurring with largely ground-based response, with some aerial water drops.
  • Assume the goal is to reduce those losses by 70%, a $12.6B annual reduction
  • Assume a pay-back for investment of 7 years, which is a very valuable project.
  • This gives a maximum project cost of $88 billion.
  • Including potential operating costs of a solution , assume $80 billion is the desired project maximum cost.
  • A key: the project and it’s operation must minimize harm to the environment.

Expanded solution: the C-130 aircraft, biofuel, and water

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  • C-130 aircraft are already used to drop water on fires around the world (7).
  • Other types of aircraft that can carry at least 3,000 gallons of water can also work.
  • There have been some crashes, and some concerns (important and valid) expressed by some people. (7)
  • However, the reality is that ground fire-fighting often does not stop a fire in the first few days, resulting in a much larger, destructive fire (billions in losses).
  • The expanded solution is to have fleets of 25+ C-130 planes strategically placed at air bases around California and the western U.S., ready to go quickly.
  • The appropriate wildfire air defense strategy should be three-fold:
    1. During periods of drought, the C-130 planes could drop water on dry areas near homes and residential areas (prevention)
    2. In the first hours of a reported fire, to buy time for ground crews to move into position, 25+ planes could drop massive amounts of water on the blaze.
    3. Also, once the ground crews are close enough to provide leadership, it is they who should direct the location of water drops. Example: sending information about adjustments to the targeting of water drops.
  • Aerial water drops are a important supplement to fire-fighting in the first 1-3 days. 
  • Establish 8 air bases spread out across the western U.S..  (use of existing airbases is a possibility), each with 25 C-130 aircraft operating on bio-fuel, with water as the cargo.  200+ aircraft total. 
  • The 8 locations could be strategically placed within 500 miles of areas known to have wildfires, preferably within 300 miles.
  • Each C-130 would have a water tank(s) installed in the cargo hold, capable of holding a large quantity water, which could be dropped on any wildfire. (these types of planes are already in use)
  • Each airbase would have water and biofuel reserves for filling the planes.
  • When any wildfire begins, there is a critical time in the first few days when a quick response could stop the fire.
  • This system could respond within hours.

Why this Expanded solution can work

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  • Up to this point, there may not have been enough emphasis on:
    • the size of a project that can be justified with $18+ billion per year in fire damage losses.   Aerial water drop capability can be massive.
    • modifications to the C-130 to improve maneuverability in windy situations and mountainous terrain.
    • Pilot training and electronic devices to make accurate aerial water drops from higher elevations.  This includes many practice runs in different conditions to safely deliver the water.
    • Dropping water on fires from planes is a technical challenge, and can be improved with study and design improvement.
    • Note: there are some conditions that make aerial water drops not feasible.

Description of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules Transport Plane (8)

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  • In use by the military since 1960, several configurations, range of specs.
  • Power:  Four Turboprops, 4,200 to 4,700 horsepower
  • Range with Payload:  1,150 – 2,070 miles
  • Speed with Payload: 345 – 417 mph at 20,000+ ft of elevation
  • Maximum Normal Payload:  36,000 pounds.  Capable of + 4,000 pounds more.
  • Has already demonstrated the capability of flying with 50/50 biofuel mix. (9) (10)

Important Issues related to Fuel and Water

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  • To prevent harm to the environment, aircraft design must maximize the % biofuel used in the planes.  This is important for sustainability decade after decade.
  • In fact, all the airbases and all ground vehicles must operate on renewable power.
  • The two above goals can be achieved.
  • Water is the safest fire-fighting substance known to human-kind.  It is not a harmful chemical, and it can run-off to the ground and not harm the environment.

This Project requires a special configuration of the C-130

  • A modified design might look like:
  •  Four Turboprops, with 4700 Horsepower.
  • Operates on 80-90+% biofuel.   This protects the environment.   Jets can already operate on 100% biofuel.  (11)
  • Maximum payload:  38,000 pounds or higher
  • Bio-Fuel filling system allows filling of 6 aircraft in 8 minutes or less
  • Large water tank(s) installed in cargo bay, probably aluminum (not plastic), capable of holding 4,000 gallons of water.
  • Water filling system allows filling of 6 aircraft in 8 minutes or less.  Water must contain minimal bacteria and contaminants.
  • Piping system array under each aircraft can empty the water tank in less than 7-12 seconds.  This would send a shower of water down on a fire.
  • Improved targeting electronics (allowing for wind direction and speed) for dropping water from higher elevations.
  • Improved aircraft design for windy conditions (see next page).
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Special configuration of the C-130, windy conditions

  • Wildfires spread rapidly in windy conditions.
  • Planes must be able to drop water on wildfires in the first day and beyond, even in windy conditions.
  • A re-designed turboprop plane for this service would include:
    • Sensors at various outside locations on the plane to sense relative wind direction and speed (wind-gusts)
    • Special flaps on wings and tail available for adjustment.
    • Computer control of these special flaps to adjust for wind conditions, without the need for a pilot to decide or react.
    • Override button available to pilot.
    • This could greatly increase the operational effectiveness of the planes.
  • Also, one day, these types of planes will be remotely-controlled and pilotless (large drones)
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How it Might Look when Implemented

  • One of the bases has been built and has 25 C-130 planes available.
  • A percentage of the pilots and ground crews could operate like volunteer firemen, not full-time.
  • A small forest fire starts 300 miles away, the alarm is sounded.
  • The planes are filled within a few hours.
  • 25 planes take off, each loaded with 4,000 gallons of water.   In about 2 hours, 25 planes drop 100,000 gallons of water on the fire.
  • The aircraft would need to fly lower than normal at the drop sight, but not too low to be impacted by the smoke.
  • Water could be targeted near residential areas where homes and people are at risk.
  • Returning to base empty, re-filling and returning twice more could place a total of 300,000 gallons on the fire in one day.  
  • Would this be enough to allow ground crews to control the fire and put it out ?  In the early stages of a fire, there is a very high probability the answer is yes.

The Possibility for Cooperative Efforts

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  • Each airbase could be designed to handle 50 planes.
  • For a particularly large and dangerous wildfire, 25 planes from another airbase 400 miles away, could either:
    • deliver their extra water to the wildfire from their base, or..
    • fly to the base nearest the fire and operate alongside the existing aircraft at that base.
  • This would double the water delivery capability (600,000 gallons per day).
  • This entire approach would greatly improve the safety of ground fire-fighters.

Who Might Support this Plan?

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  • An expanded aircraft water delivery system could be supported by:
    • Fire-fighters
    • Business owners
    • Homeowners
    • Home Developers
    • Insurance companies

  • This new approach has the potential to greatly lower insurance costs across the western United States.
  • These air bases could pay for themselves in less than 8 years, a good return on investment.
  • Of course, the first issue is how to pay for the first few bases.  This could be a cooperative effort between all the people and organizations listed above.
  • Could 8 bases be built for less than $10B each, and would operating expenses be moderate?  This would be confirmed when one base is operating.

A Key Question

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  • If this expanded plan reduced losses from wildfires by about $12B per year, would insurance companies massively adjust insurance premiums downward?
  • The history of the industry indicates premiums are based on the historical loss record, and premiums would eventually be lowered.
  • This financial process is a huge negotiation area for all parties involved.

Summary of this Expanded Plan:

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  • Greatly increases the capability to deliver aerial water drops.
  • Uses water, which will not harm the environment.
  • Ensures 200+ aircraft are available, with improved aircraft capability and improved accuracy of water drops; with extra pilot training.
  • Allows aircraft to be used regularly to drop water on dry areas that are at risk to potential fires (prevention)

  • This expanded plan is worthy of being evaluated for possible implementation.
  • This evaluation would take a cooperative effort between , private industry and insurance companies. 
  • Finally, let’s remember and honor those brave firefighters who die each year, while fighting these destructive blazes.
  • The stakes are very high, and the potential for a positive result is high.


  1. Fox News, Aug. 19, 2018, Science Says: Hotter weather turbocharges US West wildfires
  2. U.S. News, Aug. 1, 2018, Wildfires Are Getting Worse, And More Costly, Every Year
  3. World Property Journal, Sept. 13, 2019, Over 776,000 Western U.S. Homes at Extreme Risk of Wildfire Damage in 2019
  4. Insurance Journal, Sept. 12, 2019, Report: $221B in Western U.S. Homes at Extreme Risk of Wildfire Damage
  5. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Feb. 27, 2018, Record wildfires push 2018 disaster costs to $91 B.
  6. The Reader, April 26, Fire Retardant Use Explodes as worries about Water, Wildlife Risk Grow.
  7. U.S. News, Factbox: January 23, 2020,  C-130 Hercules Aircraft Used as Water Bombers to Fight Fires Around the World
  8. U.S. Airforce, June 20, 2018, C-130 Hercules Fact Sheet
  9. NPR, Houston Public Media,  Sept. 22, 2011, Air Force And Navy Turn To Biofuels
  10. U.S. Air Force, Aug. 29, 2016, Fueling the future: AF works to ‘home-grow’ biofuels for DOD, industry
  11. AIN Online, April 4, 2019, Aerion Plans For 100 Percent Biofuel on AS2

H. William Clark, born in America, resides in Texas