173rd Fighter Wing Eagles fly over wildland fires
By Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson, 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 13, 2014
KINGSLEY FIELD, Ore. --
As it happens, an aerial photographer joined a routine training mission out of the 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls, Oregon destined for the range over the eastern part of the state, July 31, 2014.
James Haseltine of HIGH-G Productions noticed a number of wildland fires as the aircraft made their way back to the base and snapped photos of the F-15 Eagles flying in front of the billowing, opaque clouds.
He did not know at the time how much attention these images would garner. No one really knows how, but in the information age the photos quickly went viral, finding their way through cyber space to the Today Show broadcast on national television Aug. 5, 2014.
Images of Kingsley's own F-15 Eagles made the round from KDRV's 5 p.m. news out of Medford, Oregon, to Mashable.com, and all the way to the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Firefighters on Oregon's Gulch Fire have battled the blaze for more than two weeks and officials posted the photos in camp early in their efforts. They contacted the 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs office saying they wanted to verify the photos hadn't been enhanced or altered, given their dramatic nature.
Weather scientists were particularly interested in these clouds as they are a phenomenon called pyro cumulus clouds, caused by the rising heat of the fire carrying ash and water vapor into the atmosphere where it condenses. Experts typically utilize satellite imagery to view these cloud formations but expressed their delight to have an up close and personal view from an aircraft.
Although the 173rd Fighter Wing's mission does not include wildland fire photography, these aircraft were in the vicinity by happenstance and provided images that furthered science and the public interest.