BROWNWOOD, Texas (KTAB) – There have been a fair share of wildfires in the Big Country and Texas this year. The Texas A&M Forrest Service has sent help including grounds teams, fixed wing tankers in Abilene and a very large helicopter based at Brownwood Regional Airport. It has been used to fight fires in Ranger and Zephyr in the last couple of weeks.
Sitting at Brownwood Regional, “Annie”, the Erickson Air-Crane, and her two pilots are ready at a moments notice.
“When it appears that a fire has a potential to become very big then they’ll call in the aviation resources and hopefully catch it before it becomes a large fire,” helicopter manager Charlie Rudacille said.
Holding up to 2500 gallons of water, this helitanker has maximum capabilities.
“You can do very light coverages and go a long ways like in a grass fire or in heavier fuels you can go with heavier drops. We can split the drop. Doesn’t have to be just one drop. We can also fly retardant,” air-crane pilot Brad Warren said.
It can also use local water sources to fill up the tank.
“Ponds, lakes you know wherever we can find them nearest the fires which results in many gallons per hour delivered to the fire,” Warren said.
From 150 feet above, the pilots act as the eyes and ears while fighting down the flames allowing firefighters on the ground to put it out.
“It’s a great tool for a lot of the initial tack around here getting on the fire early and getting it down until the ground crews can get in and get the real work done,” Warren said.
The chopper and her crew are sent where they are needed most so the stay in Brownwood is not permanent.