Texas Forest Service brings in largest plane to fight fires

Texas Forest Service brings in largest plane to fight fires

18 April 2011

published by www.mywesttexas.com

USA — One of the largest planes used in the United States to help fight wildfires was stationed Monday in Midland by the Texas Forest Service.

The DC-10 airtanker, a modified McDonnell Douglas passenger aircraft, is being housed at the Midland International Airport and can hold approximately 11,700 gallons of retardant.

Officials said the plane can be filled in eight minutes and the computerized, gravity-fed water dump system can release its entire load in eight seconds covering an area about three-quarters of a mile long and 300 feet wide.

The TFS also has stationed four Modular Airborn Firefighting Systems in Midland to help with suppression efforts. Each unit has a 3,000 gallon tank installed on a C-130 aircraft and can drop retardants to cover areas about a quarter mile long and 60 feet wide.

The planes will be used not only to assist fighting fires in Midland but also across West Texas and other parts of the state. Midland County Fire Marshal Dale Little said the planes will be of great assistance to local firefighters and crews.

The units are being housed temporarily in Midland and will be used at the discretion of operations officials when fighting fires, said TFS spokeswoman Nicole Hawk.

“Doing those retardant drops can essentially create a control line between the fires,” she said. “The drops are doing vegetation at the head of the fire and it a creates a chemical reaction that stops the fire.”

The retardants that will be dropped from the planes contain a mixture of fertilizer that is less harmful to the vegetation and has the added benefit of helping with new growth.

Officials are anticipating battling wildfires for the next two months as drought conditions are expected to persist across the state.

“It looks like the conditions are good for new fires starting,” Hawk said.

There are currently 538 personnel, including firefighters with the Texas Forest Service, that have been brought in to West Texas. They are stationed either at the incident command post in Midland or are working fires near or in Fort Davis, Iraan, San Angelo and Crockett County.

Three air tankers, two single-engine air tankers, five helicopters, 14 bulldozers and 34 fire engines also have been brought to the area to help provide additional equipment to combat the blazes, Hawk said.

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