Smoke gets in your eyes

The fire is advancing toward our Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard. Coming to our rescue, there’s a helicopter (centre pic) and Thor, who is the lean and hungry Great Dane in the foreground.

Just in case you thought I was kidding about the fire, it has worked though the bush and fynbos (proteas and other indigenous flora) on the Groenberg (green mountain) and is in a small river valley within a couple of hundred metres of Stormhoek’s premier Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard. It is about 400 metres from our house and advancing slowly. There has been no strong wind.

The whole Groenberg has been burnt and tomorrow it will be easy to see that it is a black mountain and will need a new name.
It sounds just like Vietnam in the middle of a pitched battle here. (That shows how old I am, maybe it sounds more like Iraq).

There is a small plane circling above our house and vineyards and our neighbour’s farm. This guy is directing what seems like half a dozen helicopters that are bringing big buckets of water and foam to drop on the biggest flames. There is not a moment when you can’t hear two or more of the helicopters above or nearby and when there’s a lull, the little plane’s whine cuts through.

We won’t get much sleep tonight but we won’t be bored.

helicopter 13 12 05 001.jpg

Is there an aeronautical geek out there who can tell me the make and model of this chopper?

6 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. I think that it’s a Mil Mi-8 (NATO: ‘Hip’). It’s hard to tell from that photo, though, and my aircraft recognition skills are waning. 🙂

    Do you have, or can you get, a better (higher-res) image?

  2. Mil Mi-8 Hip. Here are two closeups for comparison and pictures of Mi-8s being used for aerial firefighting in South Africa.

  3. Liz

    My husband reckons it is a Mil Mi-8. Or something similar. Have you a better picture or a registration number, he asks?

  4. mmm looks like an old-school russian chopper , Mil-8 or something

  5. The helicoptor is a Soviet/Russion Mil Mi-8 or it’s successor the Mi-17. You can Google Mil Mi-8 and see for yourself.

  6. Well done, guys.
    We have many ex-military helicopters, ex-US(Vietnam Vintage) and ex-Soviet, in private use here.
    We have had dozens and dozens of fires here this summer. And we have never had such an organised and effective response.
    The choppers are the last resort.
    The ground teams come in first and work for days.
    When the winds pick up and drive the force of the blaze, it gets out of control and this threatens homes or orchards or vineyards, the whirlybirds come and dampen down the conflagration.
    On Thursday last, we had a wind-driven big fire in the fynbos here, the choppers arrived and pounded over our house at what seemed like 5 storey height (they were collecting water from a dam 1km away) for 2 hours before fading away.
    The next morning there were just a few wisps of smoke. That afternoon, the air was clear and ground black.


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