Monday, June 8, 2009

Going to Greater Heights to Prevent Wildfires

Smokey is flown by the Friends of the Smokey Bear Balloon, a non-profit corporation of volunteers dedicated to assisting federal, state and local agencies educate the public about preventing wildfires.

We got to spend the morning with Smokey and Uncle Bill. It started early, as balloons like the calm air of early morning. So, we got to the launch site in Temecula around 6:00 am for the pilot's briefing. The breeze was a bit strong for a large balloon like Smokey, so Uncle Bill decided to just stand Smokey up and not launch off the ground. Not many good places to land there either. And landing is important!

The first task is unloading the truck. Yes, it is ALL in the back of that truck!

Then the tarp comes out. This protects the fabric of the balloon from any tears. Anyone touching the balloon had to wear gloves as oils off of skin can damage the fabric too.

Next, the balloon is taken out. This is when all the volunteers who show up can lend a hand. It takes 12 to 15 people to inflate Smokey.

Looking for Smokey's ears.

Once Smokey is completely unfolded, a fan blows cold air into the balloon to start inflating him.

It takes a while, so be patient.

When Smokey is about this big, the propane is turned on.

And we get the hot air going! That's two LPG burners, producing 30,000,000 BTUs per hour. Now that's some heat!!!

As the hot air rises, Smokey starts to stand up.

Good Morning Smokey!

Keep that hot air going! It helped warm me up too!

Smokey was quite a bit bigger than the balloon next to it, and was really an impressive sight.

Some facts about Smokey:

Height: 97 feet Weight: 1130 lbs Volume: 145,000 cu. ft.

Rip Stop Nylon: 4670 sq. yds. Hat Brim Diameter: 72 feet

He even has his own web site:

Thanks Uncle Bill! We had a great time hanging out with you and Smokey!

"Only You can Prevent Wildfires" - Smokey Bear

1 comment:

  1. WHAT a fun day that must have been - I wish I had an Uncle Bill too! Great demonstration of how they get hot air balloons up and flying - really great shots!