▶️ ‘Big responsibility’: An inside look into slowing wildfires with air tankers


As wildfire season continues, air tanker planes at the Redmond Air Tanker base are always on standby. 

Captain Jonas Doherty says this fire season has been slow, but that does not mean he’s not busy. He has been flying out and assisting firefighters on the ground.

“The idea is that we put retardant down ahead of the advancing flame, sometimes in front of houses that might be impacted by the fire,” said Doherty. 

The flames are first radioed in by a lookout on the ground and then the command center sends out a small plane to scope it out. 

“And then they tell us what they want and where they want the retardant,” said Doherty.

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After the air tankers are ordered to a fire, it is all hands on deck according to Brad Allen, the assistant base retardant manager. 

“When an order comes out, we’re ready to go and we load the planes and they take off and come back and we do it again,” said Allen. 

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The pumps Allen manages deliver 450 gallons of retardant per minute to the tankers. He says the planes are filled in six to seven minutes. 

“The two tanks are tied to each other and they drop at the same time,” said Doherty.

Air tanker captains are on standby every day, prepared to swoop in and help. 

“Pushing the button and delivering that retardant to the final place is a big responsibility and it’s a big honor,” said Doherty. “And so it’s super rewarding to get to do that.”


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