Some would say that the fire season is off to a slow start. I know, that’s like saying the ‘Q’ word as a first responder. But as I look at where we were in previous years, even though we have had some sporadic fire activity around the United States, thus far, we have been fortunate in the season. Let’s hope it lasts.
At the end of May, I had the chance to join some of my peers in the industry at the Aerial Firefighting Europe show in Nimes, France, which was held at the headquarters for the aerial firefighting segment of France’s civil defense agency, Security Civile.
To say it was an impressive facility would be an understatement. Their fleet of CL-415 Super Scoopers and Q-400 aircraft on the ramp was impressive. As we arrived, their pilots were in the middle of seasonal training as their fire season kicked off right after we departed.
Seeing their fleet and realizing the investment France has made in protecting their citizens from fire made me realize that although cities, counties, states, and the federal government are doing the best they can here – there is always room for improvement. That improvement can come from increasing budgets to allow for more fire response, factoring in a more robust firefighting program for wildfire, both on the ground and in the air, or providing funding for innovation in the industry.
While I am not saying anyone is doing it wrong, I believe that the adage of “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” is used when things get too hard or there is a chance to change the way we fight fire. During my time in France and at any firefighting conference I attend, I frequently see new products for the aerial firefighting industry. When asked about how they penetrate the market, those vendors often lament that it is an uphill battle to get an audience with agencies that fear change and want to keep the status quo.
It often takes that one agency that is not afraid to think outside the box for better solutions to roll the dice and make successful use of a product before it is more widely adopted, becoming a standard piece of technology or equipment commonly used in the industry, be it an entire aircraft, or a small unit that stores telemetry or maintenance data.
In a perfect world, I would love to see the early adoption of tech that makes everyone’s lives easier or safer in the cockpit or on the ground. However, the reality is that we will likely have to rely on those not afraid to challenge the status quo for the greater good. Those that step outside their comfort level to evaluate new technology benefitting the whole industry.
Those people and agencies are few and far between but are an essential part of our industry. Without forward thinkers, we would never progress. We would likely have not seen the development of countless products and improvements on existing technology that has seen tremendous progress in aerial firefighting.
I guess I am trying to say that if you have the chance to step outside of your comfort zone to push that next piece of potentially life-saving technology further into our industry so that it gains wider market acceptance, be that person or agency.
Be the change you want to see for the greater good because, without those kinds of people and forward-thinking agencies, we are destined to be stuck in a proverbial rut and innovate at the speed of molasses. This would not be my idea of a desirable outcome when I look at how far today’s industry differs from the industry even a decade or two ago. If we continue to innovate and challenge the norm, we might increase the amount of ground, people, homes, and businesses saved, along with the potential to save lives in the cockpit.