California is now in its 5th successive drought and wildfire season. Long term droughts inevitably lead to catastrophic wildfire events. The 2016 fire season arrived early in 2016 with Alberta, Canada experiencing its costliest disaster in history. Now, California is also experiencing severe wildfires.
The US National Interagency Fire Center long-range wildfire potential outlook for September 2016, indicates that Fall will not see an early end of wildfires.
Huge fiery plumes from the deliberate burning of an estimated 600+ oil wells blackened Middle East skies for months after sabotage by retreating Iraqi forces. Burning the Kuwaiti oil wells is perhaps the most destructive act of arson in history. [See page 8 in reference]
Stopping this catastrophe looked to be an impossible mission, however, smart people found a clever ways to stop the fires. Some oil-well fires were quelled by a specially designed Soviet T-34 tank, called Big Wind.
Built by Hungarian engineers, Windy has 2 x MIG 21 fighter jet engines strapped onto the chassis. As the video below shows, the jets are turned on and together with 6 water nozzles, the tank is driven close up to the immense heat from the burning well, where Big Wind goes into action.
In their comprehensive article entitled Stilling the Fires of War, photographer Peter Pawinski and journalist Zoltan Scrivener explain;
If a 1941 Soviet tank, coupled with two 1960 Soviet era jet fighter engines can stop catastrophic oil-well fires in 1991, then can we do something equally as clever to stop the wildfires raging across North America in 2016?
Other Clever Uses for Armour
The use of specially designed armoured vehicles for life-saving tasks is not new.
In 1943, an irascible, stubborn military genius, MAJ GEN Sir Percy Hobart, led a paradigm shift in armoured operations with his 79th Armoured [Experimental] Division. This unit comprised 1,900 specialised armoured vehicles, becoming the world’s largest Armoured Division of World War II.
On June 6th 2016, commemorations for the 72nd anniversary of the successful 1944 allied amphibious invasion of Europe – Operation Overlord – were held in Normandy, France.
Operation Overlord has become one of the most enduring and recognisable turning points in history, thanks to books, documentaries and movies including The Longest Day, Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan.
GEN Dwight D Eisenhower commanded the invasion. As the US commander of SHAEF [Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces] it was Eisenhower’s mission to ensure success. Eisenhower was not handed success, he had to weld a multi-national allied force together – and – safely establish beachheads on a massively defended enemy coastline, the Atlantic Wall.
This operation utilised large numbers of armored vehicles never seen before. Thanks to the military genius of MAJ GEN Sir Percy Hobart, casualties were lighter than expected and the landings succeeded.
The Rise of Pyro-terrorism
War-fighting today has evolved from battles between nations to that of asymmetric warfare or war-fighting by proxy. Every day our news and TV reports are saturated with increasing numbers of lethal terrorist attacks across our planet.
In 2007 at Glasgow Airport, terrorists tried to crash their burning car into the passenger terminal. The flaming car was packed with gas cylinders. The plan was for the car fire to detonate the gas cylinders creating massive casualties in the attack and also against first responders including ambulance para-medics, fire-fighters and police.
The US Pyro-terrorist Threat
According to Joseph W Pfeifer [Chief of Counterterrorism and Emergency Preparedness at the Fire Department of the City of New York], the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, India by Lashkar-i-Tayyiba provides compelling evidence that pyro-terrorism is now a standard operating procedure [SOP] for terrorist organisations.
In this article entitled, Fire Wars: Past and Future Terrorist Attacks on American Forests Warrant Priority Attention, Larry Bell interviewed former US Air Force test pilot William Scott, about Colorado wildfire attacks;
William Scott played a central role in developing the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps, a state-owned and operated air fleet involved in the detection and suppression of wildfires. The use of water bombers has been well covered in the media, however, air power alone cannot extinguish wildfires – boots on the ground are still needed.
Roger Underwood, a former General Manager of the Dept. of Conservation and Land Management in Western Australia states that water bombing aircraft are not a magic bullet;
Whilst air support provides a critical role in fire-fighting operations, evidence from bushfires/wildfires in Australia continue to identify that effective land management is the key to success. As Dr Frank McKinnell from Western Australia explains in this 2011 report;
This ‘hands-off approach’ has led to significant build-up of fuel loads in forests, bushland and wildlands. Fire-fighters are vulnerable to the intense heat because thin-skinned vehicles and protective clothing do not withstand even moderate exposure to heat radiation.
Armored Strike Teams
This is where the Armored Strike Teams can play a significant role in augmenting existing fire-fighting operations. They also add manoeuvre to the equation, by enabling rapid deployment and response, plus provide massive knockdown capacity with 5000 gallon payloads in the case of the Jumbo 5000 units.
These same principles in war-fighting also apply to fire-fighting.
In a report by the Watson Institute at Brown University, 970,000 US veterans have been officially recognised with some degree of physical and emotional disability from these conflicts. Many veterans simply cannot find civilian employment.
Employing veterans within Armored Strike Teams provides a common sense solution where military skills would serve them well. This would be particularly suitable for veterans formerly qualified in Armored or Mechanized Corps.
By pairing trained fire-fighters with war-fighters would also enable cross-training in developing new strategies to combat wildfires.
Over the past 10 years, Australia, Canada and now the US are experiencing their worst wildfires in recorded history.
Australia – 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
Canada – 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires.
California – the 2016 Blue Cut wildfire forced the evacuation of 82,000 residents and provides ongoing evidence that Californian wildfires are becoming increasingly costly and dangerous;
In 2015, the Russian Army deployed their own ‘Special Firefighting Vehicle (SFV)’. If Russia has done it, then why haven't we?
In 2007, Australia, Canada and the US had access to this state-of-the-art technology. The civil, political and military leadership in each country failed to analyse, adapt and evolve to the increasing drought, wildfire and pyro-terrorism threat.
It is inconceivable that we have not evolved from complex 1944 flame-throwing tanks to less complex 2007 ‘water-throwing’ tanks.
It is time to utilise better life-saving defences to reduce deaths and injuries, stopping widespread destruction of our native fauna and flora are also vital to our environmental and national interests.
Failure to invest in new strategies and equipment will further trash our national treasuries and ‘burn’ all funding for veteran and other civil projects.
As Tyler Rogoway ponders in his article about the Russian SFV;