HICKORY, NC (FOX 46) – Crews are tackling the western wildfires from the ground – and the air. A mobile base has been set up as a staging area to battle the flames at the Hickory Regional Airport. It is the only mobile base in the state.
When crews first arrived to the mobile base they only had half of the planes and resources they have now – but as the fire grows so does their operation.
Water or fire-retardant is pumped into the planes while they’re still running. The plan is to get planes on the ground, filled up, and back in the air as fast as possible.
“The unique part about this base is it’s not fixed. Within a couple hours notice we can break it down and pack it up and by this time tomorrow it’ll be set back up at another airport doing the same thing.”
The single-engine air tankers, called seat planes, carry 800 gallons of fluid. It takes three minutes to load and just under 10 minute to fly to the drop zone.
“So if we stack them and we can be proficient and productive getting them out then they can drop that IC on the ground and the firefighter can know that every ten minutes, they’re putting it on there and they’re making progress.”
Seven planes flying in and out of the airport, fighting both the Chimney Rock and Party Rock fires.
“If I run the numbers I think we’re going to break 60,000 in light of two to three days operation.”
That’s just over 16 hours because crews can only fly six and a half hours per day.
“We’ve achieved some historic goals for aviation for North Carolina”
Authorities say that goes for all the crews fighting fires in Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina.