U.S. Forest Service Prepositions Aerial Firefighting Services in Gaylord Amid Dry Summer
“Michigan’s fire season starts when the snow melts,” said Debra-Ann Brabazon, Wildfire Prevention & Mitigation Education and Fire Information with the U.S. Forest Service. “Until we get snow, we are going to have fire danger.”
To make sure they are ready to respond in a moment’s notice, the U.S. Forest Service has prepositioned some aerial firefighting services in Gaylord.
“If they determine the ground crews can’t handle it, they can call us and utilize us a tool” said Paul Wizner.
Wizner and Marcos Valdez are both Fire Boss pilots. The aircraft they fly is fast and scoops up water from lakes to help fight fires.
“So, you can take off and grab a load of water and hit that fire very, very quickly and then find a close by water source and put a lot of water on the fire in a short amount of time,” Valdez said.
They are just one tool in the aerial arsenal.
They also have a Chinook helicopter. It came to fame during the Vietnam War, now is used for firefighting. It holds over 2,000 gallons of water and with its snorkel, can fill that tank in under 2 minutes.
They also have another plane that acts as the Air Attack Platform.
On board, Jason Withrow is the U.S. Forest Service’s air tactical group supervisor. He coordinates the air resources along with those on the ground.
“Whatever the ground resources need, the air support is there to do just that, support them,” Withrow said.
The U.S. Forest Service is glad to have these resources available, but they hope fire prevention can keep the aerial arsenal grounded.
“While these resources are here for immediate dispatch to a wild fire, we want everyone not to be complacent,” Brabazon said. “We want everyone to be vigilant to make sure they are staying on top of the fire danger and the potential for them to ignite an unwanted wildfire.”
She says each of us has an important role to play in preventing wildfires.
“If you lit it, stay with it, remember, only you can prevent wildfires,” Brabazon said.