By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Aerial support during a wildfire can make the difference between having a fire grow exponentially or stop it in it’s tracks.
All of the air tankers that come through the Redmond Air Tanker Base provide critical help during wildfire seasons like this one.
“We’re centrally located in the region, so they tend to bring air tankers here so they can go anywhere in the region at a moment’s notice,” Base manager Eric Graff said.
The Redmond Air Tanker Base can see between eight and ten air tankers come through in a day, picking up crucial fire retardant to help control the flames during a wildfire.
“Retardant doesn’t put it out,” said Jean Nelson-Dead with the Deschutes National Forest. “But it allows us to more safely get in and fight a fire.”
Though the smoke has prevented many air tankers from taking off today, the Base has seen a significant increase in activity since lightning strikes sparked several fires across Central Oregon last week.
“The other day we did 63 loads in one day,” said Graff. “Before August 15th we had pumped 350-thousand gallons, and now we’ve reached 800-thousand gallons of retardant.”
Keeping enough retardant on hand for that many air tankers can get expensive.
“The retardant can cost about two dollars per gallon,” Graff said.
An expensive, but necessary cost to help battle wildfires, and ensure everyone’s safety.
“Our goal is always to make sure that we’re getting resources to those people on the ground,” said Nelson-Dean.
“It’s important to have air tankers bases throughout the area that they can return to, reload, and get back to the fire quickly,” Graff said.