In recent years the task of wildland fire fighting has taken a new shape with interagency sharing of resources being the primary focus. Airtankers based in Nevada during the fire season are contracted by the Bureau of Land Management, or the United States Forest Service. Nevada airtanker bases are located at the Minden-Tahoe Airport, Stead Airport and the Battle Mountain Airport. Southern Nevada is served by the airtanker base at Cedar City, Utah.
In the early 1970’s, NDF saw the need for increased mobility and utility for wildland fire suppression. In response to this need, NDF acquired three excess property Bell TH-13T (47G3B1) helicopters with assistance from the U.S. Forest Service. The TH-13Ts were placed in service and served NDF until they were retired in 1991. In September 1993, NDF acquired its first UH-1H “Huey” with assistance from the U.S. Forest Service. The Hueys have provided NDF and the taxpayers of Nevada with an efficient, cost effective, and safe tool for response to wildland fires and emergency incidents. While the Hueys have been a very important asset for the State of Nevada, NDF saw the need to research aftermarket modifications that would allow these aircraft to become truly multi-mission capable.
In 2006 NDF began the process of revamping its Air Operations program in order to augment its mission profile. NDF retrofitted each of its three Hueys to allow for greater lifting capability in the high altitude and hot temperature environment of the Sierra Front. Lycoming T/53-703 (Cobra gunship engines) and Boundary Layer Fast Fin modifications were coupled with composite main rotor blades and tail boom strake kits to increase aircraft performance significantly. Aircraft performance upgrades meant more fire fighting personnel and equipment could be carried for initial attack operations. In addition more water could be delivered to support fire fighting activities. Specialized equipment to make NDF’s aircraft that much more versatile not only in the fire fighting arena, but in support of other state agencies has been acquired. Long Line (external load) capability and Tundra pads (bear paws) are just the beginning. State of the art Diamond J gauges and Garmin (color moving map) Global Positioning Systems which increase safety and efficiency have been installed on all NDF helicopters.
Today the three NDF Hueys are based at the Minden-Tahoe Airport along with NDF Helitack personnel during the summer months. The daily Initial Attack crew consists of a Pilot, Helitack Manager, Lead Crewman, and seasonal fire fighters. Crews are comprised of pilots and firefighters who are trained in both helicopter operations and wildland fire fighting tactics. Administrative oversight of the aviation program is conducted by the Aviation Services Officer at the NDF facility located at the Minden-Tahoe Airport. Aircraft maintenance is provided onsite by FAA licensed A&P/IA maintenance technicians who are NDF employees.
Vertical magazine wrote an article on NDF’s Air Operations program in the Dec 2016/Jan 2017 issue. Click here for the article and it can be found on pages 38-42.
For those interested in learning more about the Air Operations Program, please feel free to contact the Aviation Services Officer to schedule a tour of the facility and aircraft. Contact information is listed below.
Aviation Services Officer
Minden Tanker Base
2301 Firebrand Circle
Minden, NV 89423