Firefighters with Ash Flat, Cherokee Village and Highland Fire Departments participated in training on Sept. 13 at the Sharp County Municipal Airport. The firefighters were joined by representatives of Arkansas Forestry Commission. The training demonstrated how to refill a forestry plane with water.
By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor
Area fire departments spent the afternoon on Sept. 13 training on methods to refill Arkansas Forestry Commission aircraft for water drops in forest fires. Planes from Arkansas Forestry came in and demonstrated water dumps at the Sharp County Regional Airport. Kevin Kilcrease, staff trainer for Arkansas Forestry, began the demonstrations by explaining to the about 20 firefighters in attendance, the importance of safety when approaching the aircraft and staying away from the propeller.
“Arkansas Forestry could not function without these firefighters,” Kilcrease explained. He said the tanker program in Arkansas is unique in that the planes are able to refill locally, usually within 30 miles of the fire, allowing them to have better response times and get more water on the fires in hopes of extinguishing them before they are able to spread. Out West where many large forest fires occur, pilots are required to fly long distances to tanker bases as far as an hour away to refuel. Local fire departments are valuable assets to Forestry in this area.
Firefighters then were able to demonstrate filling the planes from their fire trucks and shown how to open the valves, while the pilots remain in the aircraft.
He also instructed them on hand signs the pilots utilize to indicate the tanks are full and when they are prepared to take off.
The pilots explained the importance of firefighters making eye contact with those filling the tanks and to keep an eye on the cockpit at all times.
The valuable training is vital to the area that experiences numerous brush fires each fall .spring.