By Ron Sering
Prior to the end of World War II, planes were deployed to wildfires as spotters. At the end of the war, with a good supply of surplus bombers, many were quickly deployed as air tankers, dropping water and chemical retardant to support the ground crews.
Helicopters are used as well, to make more precise drops on fire location. The Salida airport is a service stop for the several helicopters supporting ground efforts with the Hayden Pass Fire.
Nicknamed the Aerial Truck, the single-seater uses a unique dual-rotor design and at 10,000-foot elevation can lift 5,000 pounds. It flies with a “Bambi Bucket” suspended underneath. In March 2015 the number of operational K-MAXes was 21 worldwide.
Boeing C-47 Chinook
Originally designed for military use, the C-47 Chinook was used extensively in Vietnam for troop and heavy equipment movement. It carries 2,000 to 2,600 gallons of either water or fire retardant in an internal tank, equivalent to the capacity of a fixed wing air tanker.
In production for twenty years, this is a popular helicopter for news crews and air ambulances. It is used for observation and spotting in the firefighting effort.