Fire Prevention & Protection, Firefighting, Wildland Firefighting

Firefighting Air Resources are Aging and Costly

In the second of a four part series, The Iowa Times-News examines wildfire firefighting. In today’s story, the newspaper takes a look at firefighting resources.

When firefighters could no longer contain the flames threatening homes in the Wood River Valley this summer, fire officials looked to the sky.

“Here comes the air show,” many shouted as air tankers and helicopters were called in to drop hundreds of thousands of gallons of retardant and water onto the flames.

The wildfire was ravaging the hills surrounding Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley just days after lightning sparked the fire Aug. 7. Due to the fire’s erratic behavior, the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office ordered mass evacuations. Thousands fled the area to avoid the invading smoke and flames.

By day eight of fighting the fire, officials met at base camp to strategize against a situation defying normal flame activity.

Above them, a DC-10 heavy air tanker–known as Tanker 910–dropped almost 12,000 gallons of retardant in eight seconds on the southern flank of the fire. But as the pilots turned it around to refuel in Pocatello, the plane began experiencing engine failure.

The aircraft’s No. 2 engine in the tail was no longer working but the two pilots managed to make a non-emergency landing at the reload base.

The air tanker would be out of commission for two days as mechanics replaced the faulty engine.

Read more of the story here