CannonTour - The Armies of Summer (Wildland Firefighting) Pt 1/3

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. siyeh

    siyeh unproductive Supporter

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    I just read that the young lady who was killed by her brother in the Dayton shootings was a tour guide at the Missoula smoke jumper visitor center this summer. Maybe you crossed paths with her. Sad.
  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Missoula does offer organized tours and has a visitor center. I had an inside view of Missoula some years back so I didn't take a tour, but I did stop at the visitor's center. Couldn't say beyond that. Sad situation.
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  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 8 Continued

    On to Salmon and end of day.

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    There are some historical sites encompassed in the Land of the Yankee Fork.
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    This helitack base used to be a heli-rappel base but that mission is now covered by the base at Salmon.
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    The nature of the terrain here requires a lot of helitack assets to deliver firefighters to remote areas to try to pounce on fires before they get out of hand.
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    This forest has seen some tough fires over the years. During one fire in the 1980s there were over 80 shelter deployments for firefighters that were trapped by fire.



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    As usual, the aircraft is loaded, calculations have been made, and all are prepared for a ready response. They have fuel caches stashed round the forest so that aircraft can operate close to the scene without having to retreat to fuel.
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    This aircraft can deliver firefighters and continue to support those firefighters by dropping loads of water from a bucket suspended beneath the aircraft.
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    The blister in the pilot's side window helps him line up those drops.

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    Had a great conversation with this supervisor about how his crew operates and some general procedures and principles about fighting wildland fire. Always informative. At this time, things were still pretty green and fire calls were slow. That will soon change. He has a crew of eager young firefighters ready to go.
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    They had this rappel training tower on site but since they no longer rappel at this station it is not used.
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    If there is such a concentration of vehicle vs deer accidents on this small section of road, they should move the deer crossing signs to a safer place so the deer will cross there. :evil
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    Heading to Salmon.
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    Not only is this a heli-rappel base, but they offer regional/national training here as well.
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    I think some of their aircraft were deployed.
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    Rappelers go out upside down (sort of). This was different from my experience in the military years ago. Once I saw the apparatus inside the helicopter that they connected their rappel lines to it made sense. The ropes were connected high in the cabin and not on the floor. Therefore if you pushed off from the "traditional" rappel position you would likely get a chest or face full of skid from time to time. By leaning/rotating almost upside down on the skid, you eliminate that problem.

    These forest service pix will demonstrate.
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    Rappel aircraft.
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    Article about the training here.
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    Two heli-rappelers from nearby were burned over and killed a while back. I'll visit their memorial and tell their story in tomorrow's installment.

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    J.D. Salinger (Chief of Detectives on McCloud) is from Salmon.

    Also the guy that was instrumental in developing some magnum cartridges.

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  4. rkover1

    rkover1 doc

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    Interesting signs at the Idaho National Laboratory. I have 40+ years in medical radiation experience. Wonder if they'd let me wander around unescorted?
    Thanks for the thread! Keep it up!

    doc
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  5. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter

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    Interesting stuff----this info is very timely for me as we just rode the Magruder Corridor and spent the night in the most horrific thunderstorm I've ever camped in. Me and Dingweeds were riding with a Forestry fire fighter the whole ride and his insight into his work had me mesmerized. He didn't talk much....but I was always asking questions and man was his job interesting.
    The next morning breaking camp he said he knew the lightning had have started fire somewhere---and sure enough it did and he spotted it right away. He said the ground was so wet it wouldn't grow into a problem and it didn't.

    What really impressed me about this guy was his physical ability. He had no body fat and could run up a mountain.........or push a dead DRZ multiple times. Wasn't no use me trying to help :lol3

    How he spotted this little fire I don't know.......I would have never seen it.
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    That's him (Paul--from Utah) in the middle with his son on the left---and then some ole' codger leaving Elk City.
    I'll never forget the scary stories he told me.
    Uhhhhh...........it's day 6 if you were wondering !!!
    He is shipped up here in Idaho and Montana from Utah to fight fires all the time.
    And we rode by many burnt places where he fought-------on the ground.
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  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Mark, it would be very interesting to hear him tell some fire stories. :thumb
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  7. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 9 Heading toward Helena 430 miles

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    Cramer Fire
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    Heading back toward the former helibase.
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    This is the site of the former Indianola Helitack Base. It started as a ranger station in 1909. In the 1970s it became a helitack base. In 1994 they added the heli-rappel capability. There were two fatalities from this base in 2003. The base was moved to Salmon in 2008. One explanation was that the helicopters were stationed on this flat spot across the road from the station which was a hazard during emergency operations.
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    I wondered if flying in and out of this terrain wasn't an issue as well.
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    There is a cache of firefighting equipment here.
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    There is a memorial for the two helitack firefighters that were killed at a nearby fire. They were members of the Indianola base.
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    A very nice memorial.
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    There is also a memorial where the firefighters fell on the mountain.
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    There are some pix of their burned over equipment and shelters here.

    A summary of some things that happened and went wrong is here. On the anniversary of some of these events firefighters review some of these fatalities to remind them how important it is to follow the best practices for safety and awareness.

    If you start at the 16:00 minute mark, you can see how this situation developed. There are some radio exchanges in the video.
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  8. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter

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    They were pretty scary stories.
    He wasn't bragging as he was a quiet guy---but I was so curious of just what he goes thru.
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  9. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University Supporter

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    :clapWoot!! :clap

    A little late to the party but IN!!

    Gidday Brian , long time no chat, trust you are well, when are you visiting ?

    Best wishes

    Shane
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  10. bomose

    bomose Long timer

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    After watching the video, you can see how quickly things can change with the slopes out west. Perhaps there should have been more urgency in their voice to get the helo up, but with a 1.5 mph fire turning to a 46mph fire it would be difficult to know how urgent the time line would be. Some scary stuff and brave people working those fires.
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  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 9 Continued (Hamilton, Darby, Lolo, Ft Owen)

    There were a lot of these boat inspection stations out this way. Seems like the states are serious about trying to control invasives.
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    Even kayaks had to be inspected.
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    There was a stretch along here that had a lot of old log buildings.
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    Wagon road or not, some of these pass roads involve a lot of effort.
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    On a US Highway.
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  12. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 9 Continued

    Back in 2000, Hamilton had to evacuate due to forest fires in the area.

    They are home to a couple of labs that deal with highly infectious diseases. One lab is public and one is private and they have a biohazard level 4 and 3 labs.

    BSL-4 labs are rare. However some do exist in a small number of places in the US and around the world. As the highest level of biological safety, a BSL-4 lab consists of work with highly dangerous and exotic microbes. Infections caused by these types of microbes are frequently fatal, and come without treatment or vaccines. Two examples of such microbes include Ebola and Marburg viruses.
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    One thing they deal with is Ebola. Pretty solid security here.
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    The lab is right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. They do other research as well.
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    This old fort is in the yard of an active ranch.
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    The place started as a trading post and fort in 1857.
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    More information about the fort and park via this link.
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  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Hi Shane! Hope you are enjoying the winter in New Zealand. :D

    All is well here.

    When I read these accounts I can see that there are many elements to it where things could have gone right or wrong along the way. I noticed that when I talked to people in the business about the same events sometimes they each had a different view of what the most significant factor was. It seems that better policies and procedures come out of many of these incidents over the years.
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  14. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 8 Continued Missoula

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    The Fire Lab looks into all kinds of stuff.

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    Cool stuff there.

    Article about some of their work.

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    Lockheed P2V. Many of these were converted to aerial tankers to fight fires. They could hold about 2,000 gallons of retardant. These were originally Navy anti-sub aircraft.
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    These had a service life of about 15,000 hours. They have been replaced by Bae-146 (airliners) that have a service life of about 80,000 hours and can carry about 3,000 gallons of retardant. We'll take a close look at one of those later. A P2V crashed just north of the base which I'll cover in a bit.
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    The Smokejumper Base here has a visitor center and scheduled public tours. It is a significant tourist attraction. I got an inside look at the smokejumper stuff a few years back so I didn't take a tour. I did revisit the visitor's center though. I'll share some pix and info from my previous visit in a bit. For now, the current visit to the VC.
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    Drip torch for starting backburns or other controlled burning.
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    Reminded me of jump school.
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    Those streamers I mentioned that act like round chutes for gauging the set up for a drop.
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  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 8 Missoula Continued

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    We'll cover more about retardant later on.
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    Dormitory for smoke jumpers.
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    On July 29, 1994, pilots Bob Kelly and Randy Lynn of Neptune, Inc died in a Lockheed P2V-7 air tanker crash, registration # N918AP west of Missoula MT after dropping a partial load of retardant on the Butler Creek Fire. According to Flight Safety Digest, April 1999 Appendix, "the crew apparently became fixated on the malfunction of the retardant-release doors and did not realize the tanker was entering a narrow box canyon." The airplane struck steeply rising terrain below the ridgetop. (Flight Safety Digest, April 1999 -- Fixed-wing Aircraft Accidents During US Aerial Fire Fighting Operations 1976-1998; link below.)
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    I was going to try to get closer to the location of the crash but they just sprayed chemicals on the road for dust control.
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    Missoula in general. Dana Carvey was born here. Carroll O'Connor and J.K. SImmons attended the university here. Norman Maclean (A River Runs Through It and Young Men and Fire [burnover at Mann Gulch]) taught at the U here. Mike Mansfield and John Elway are Missoulians.

    Indeed it is.
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  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    As I mentioned, I previously visited the Missoula Smokejumpers while on a ride on the Great Divide.

    I'll copy the post below so you don't have to click through. From 2010:

    I took a side trip to the US Forest Service smokejumper base in Missoula.
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    They have some exhibits that include a mock up of a lookout.
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    Early communication involved riding to make a report on horseback or on foot, using morse code with signal mirrors, and releasing homing pigeons. For 40 years, they relied on single strand #9 galvanized wire strung through the trees for phone service. Radios made it much easier to coordinate.
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    Early version of those headlamps we use.
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    Smoke jumper in jump gear. Tools are dropped later.
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    Wildland firefighter.
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    Wildland firefighters carry these shelters in case they are threated with being burned over. They can shake them out and get inside them in about 20 seconds. The shelter is made of fiberglass and aluminum. It can't take direct flames too long but it is designed to reflect heat up to 1,600 degrees. They are designed so that theoretically flames ride over the tent on a cushion of air. Temps inside are 150-200 degrees and from accounts I've read it is not a pleasant place to be. Human skin starts to "burn" at 131 degrees. One battle is to breathe a very thin layer of cool enough air and oxygen from the surface of the ground. Some survivors have had plastic buckles on their gear inside their shelter melt during a burnover.
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    If you dig around the USFS web sites, you can find a data base with accounts from people who survived being burned over in one of these shelters. In one book I read, some firefighters deployed their shelters in the face of a burnover while two civilians were trapped at the scene with no shelters. In the end the two civilians essentially forced their way into a young female firefighters shelter (amazing that they fit somehow) and all three survived in a single shelter. Sadly, in that group four firefighters in shelters did not survive. These shelters have saved at least 220 lives.
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    I appreciate the work wildland firefighters do. It is difficult and dangerous. I have read several books about fire events and find that in many ways wildland firefighting is similar to military operations in many respects. It is interesting to me to read about operations and systems that worked or failed to varying degrees. Sadly, mistakes or failures are sometimes fatal.

    Edit: I mentioned a database of incidents. If you go here (http://iirdb.wildfirelessons.net/main/Reviews.aspx) you can view a variety of events. Go to the "accident type" pull down and you get an idea of of the many tough situations that develop for wildland firefighters. You can browse for burnovers, entrapments, aircraft related incidents, shelter deployments, and many more tough situations.

    Seems like there were 72 smokejumpers assigned here. Those that don't live here normally can stay in this dorm.
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    Smokejumpers make much of their own gear. They get good sewing things I guess. Is this an appropriate time to mentioned that about 1/3 of smokejumpers are women? Personnel parachutes come from commerical sourcres. Smokejumpers do make cargo chutes though.
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    At the beginning of the season jumpers use some system to develop a random order list for being called for fires. When a stick of jumpers is needed, the next group on the board go.
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    Jumpers need to be suited up and on the plane within 10 minutes.
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    After a jump, chutes need to be dried and inspected. They are suspended in this loft to dry.
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  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    And another from that previous ride in 2010:

    Chutes need to be carefully packed by jumpers.
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    Chutes come in multiple sizes.
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    Having served as a paratrooper in the past, this parachute stuff is sort of interesting to me.
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    Tools are dropped from low altitude after the jumpers go out.
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    Fuel and water are also dropped.
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    Jumper meeting.
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    Various cargo packs. This one has sleeping bags, food, and a crosscut saw. By the way, all this stuff has to be carried out.
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    Food for two jumpers for two days.
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    Medical kit.
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    One of two jump planes at Missoula. This is a Sherpa. They also have a DC-3 that started off as a military C-47 and was upgraded throught the years to a turboprop DC-3.
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    Looking toward the rear. Jumpers on one side, gear on the other.
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    They have a camera to record the jumpers as they go out. This lets the jumpers critique and continue to improve their body position over time.
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    This Sherpa is a hand-me-down from the Air Force. It used to fly F-16 and A-10 engines around Europe during the cold war. Many of the aircraft the USFS uses are leased.
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  18. GasMich

    GasMich Been here awhile

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    Cannontreker along for the ride. Very informative report. As always.
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  19. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University Supporter

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  20. boomhwr

    boomhwr Been here awhile

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    The check stations you passed are for the zebra mussel out of California. Can filter a swamp to 30 microns. If you had gone through Twin Falls, there are 9 aircraft flying fires out the airport.
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