Wildland firefighting aircraft come to town
Air attack supervisor Dan Carroll with the DNR gives the Enterprise a close-up look at aerial firefighting machines.
Fire suppression aircraft have landed at the Park Rapids Municipal Airport.
On call, in case of a wildland fire as of Monday, are a Fire Boss amphibious scooper air tanker, a Turbo Commander 690 air attack platform, and a Bell Huey helicopter with a fixed tank, capable of dropping retardant gel on a fire.
Dan Carroll, an air tactical group supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Park Rapids office said the group also includes a trailer with tanks for mixing the gel and a couple campers to house the crews.
Carroll explained that the air tanker and the trailer are both owned by Fire Boss, and are under contract to the DNR for the fire season.
“The Fire Boss company has a pilot here to fly the airplane, and they have a driver, or a loader, that staffs the trailer,” he said. “So they support the aircraft by loading it with gel water, and then helping with fuel and whatever.”
Meanwhile, the helicopter is here on a U.S. Forest Service contract, Carroll said, noting that they will be here “probably not the entire season, but at least to start here for the first couple weeks. The trailer will stay at the airport, and then if that Fire Boss were to get moved, let’s say to Bemidji for the next couple weeks, the trailer would go there with it.”
While the air tanker and the helicopter target the fire with tank loads of water or chemical retardant, Carroll said he will be circling above them in the air attack plane, “talking to both suppression aircraft about where we’d like them to work and making sure they’re clear of each other, etc.”
Alongside him at the plane’s controls will be pilot Wayne Pliss.
“We flew two fires on Friday, out west of town and one south of town,” Carroll said regarding the two planes. “The helicopter got here Saturday.”
Carroll told a Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning audience on March 3 that the goal of fire suppression aircraft is to support ground-based firefighting efforts.