Wind grounds aircraft in Mesa that would help battle fires burning near Flagstaff
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Firefighting crews have been dealing with raging winds in Flagstaff and when the wind picks up, so do the fires. “As far as firefighting activity here in the Tonto National Forest and here in Arizona, things have quite picked up exponentially,” said Chris Price, the base manager at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Tanker Base.
He says the response to fires during these windy conditions also changes. “With the winds being so high, we have a threshold as far as when these air tankers go to drop,” Price said. “When they drop that retardant out of the aircraft, as soon as it hits, the wind is going to blow it away and not hit the target.”
Just last week, he says there were a number of aircraft available. But on Monday afternoon, there were only two tankers. “A lot of them are in New Mexico still working and then we’re starting to get some more stuff headed toward the California area as well,” Price said.
When fires begin to threaten communities, the goal is to respond with force. “Those are all hands on deck. We try to get as much equipment to those fires as possible and as quickly as possible,” Price said.
But as far as helping in the Pipeline, Haywire and Double fires burning near Flagstaff, Price said they’re still waiting to see if there’s going to be a break in the wind to get aircraft into the area. Even with the number of fires burning in the Southwest, Price says this fire season has still been quieter than most. “At this time last year, we had put out close to 3 million gallons and were just under 1 million right now,” he said.
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