Stillwater News Press

Local News

August 8, 2012

NEW: Firefighter air support team sets up in Stillwater

STILLWATER, Okla. — A wildfire aviation air support team has set up operations at Stillwater Regional Airport to assist firefighting efforts during the recent outbreak of wildfires in Oklahoma.

Two single-engine air tankers have been operating out of the Stillwater airfield since Monday.

On Wednesday, the SEAT units were pouring water from their 800-gallon tanks on a fire near Stroud.

The SEAT units are the only ones operating in Oklahoma, said SEAT manager Todd Breininger.

One of the aircraft is called a Fire Boss, which can land in a lake, fill up its water tank and quickly get back in the air.

“These two aircraft are great initial attack tools,” said Breininger. “We’re trying to knock the fires down quickly before they get a chance to get going.”

One of the aircraft is based in Florida and the other is based in Minnesota.

Les Gandee, another SEAT manager, said the aircraft operate on a three-hour fuel cycle before requiring refueling in Stillwater.

The air support unit includes two pilots, two SEAT managers and three radio and support personnel.

“We have been supporting them with water and fuel and a place to hang their hats,” said Gary Johnson, director of the Stillwater Regional Airport.

Breininger said the air support unit was contracted by the Oklahoma Forestry Services to help fight the fires.

“The single biggest determining factor why they want air support would be life and property,” said Gandee. “Hopefully, we can get water on a fire and suppress it fast.”

Breininger said the air support unit will remain in Stillwater for as long as necessary.

“There’s no set date for how long we’ll be here,” said Breininger. “It could be three weeks or it could be a week. It all depends on the weather and if there is any significant rain.”

“As hot and dry as it’s been, it’s pretty extreme here,” said Lacey Crawford, who is working as a radio operator for the unit. “It’s like hay along the roads and it just doesn’t take much to ignite.”

 

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