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Busy wildfire season means pilots need to take extra careBusy wildfire season means pilots need to take extra care

<BR><SPAN class=twodeck>Be alert for flight restrictions, other hazards</SPAN><BR><SPAN class=twodeck>Be alert for flight restrictions, other hazards</SPAN>

Firefighters in the southwestern United States have had their hands full over Memorial Day weekend with several very large wildfires, and ongoing drought conditions in much of the West and parts of the East could mean a very bad fire season. For pilots, that means extra caution is due whenever flying near any wildfire.

Very few brushfires grow large enough to require temporary flight restrictions, but it does happen. Like all TFRs, wildfire restrictions are issued by notam and are available both from DUATS and flight service stations. In addition, the U.S. Forest Service often posts graphical representations of the TFRs. As always, though, the only official record of a TFR is the notam, and the Forest Service site should be used for information only, not for navigation.

Pilots who spot any wildfire should, first and foremost, stay away. Contact the nearest ATC or FSS facility to report the location of the fire (preferably including a VOR radial and DME distance).

Besides the obvious danger of collision with air tankers and air attack aircraft over a major fire, other dangers include reduced visibility due to smoke and haze, strong downdrafts due to smoke columns and convective build-up, and high density altitudes and possible temperature inversions.

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