Wallow Fire: DC-10 tanker pilot calls fire 'impressive'

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on June 10, 2011 at 8:13 AM

Updated Friday, Jun 10 at 8:20 AM

MESA, Ariz. -- In a first for Arizona, a very large air tanker, also called a VLAT, is part of the air arsenal fighting the Wallow Fire, which has been burning in Eastern Arizona since May 29.

Now the second-largest wildfire in state history, the fire has been burning with zero containment for more than a week. That changed Thursday when the thousands of crews battling the fire were able to take advantage of cooler temperature and decreased winds. The fire is now 5 percent contained.

In addition to the ground crews, helicopters and usual air tankers, there's a new tool in the fire fight, and it's a big one -- a DC-10 tanker.

"The fire is impressive. It's massive," said Capt. Jack Maxey, the pilot of the DC-10 dubbed Tanker 911. "There are areas where it's very, very active. Other places, it's smoldering quite a bit,"

Maxey said the DC-10 tanker is just one piece of a huge, well-coordinated operation.

"It'll play a role just like everything else does," Maxey said. "From the people on the ground to the folks in the air, it's all one big operation to try and get this fire under control and try to help save people's property and lives and everything else. It does play a part, but it's just a part of the whole picture."

With Maxey at the controls, Tanker 911 dropped three lines around Greer. It's not yet clear where else the DC-10 will be used in the coming days.

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