MESA, AZ (3 TV/CBS 5) -- Air support is playing a crucial role in getting the Woodbury Fire under control.
Four firefighting aircraft worked the fire Tuesday, flying out of the Phoenix Interagency Dispatch Center at Mesa Gateway Airport, helping crews out on the fire lines.
“It’s giving those guys enough time to get in, get situated, and be able to do some good solid work,” said Chris Price, the tanker base manager at the Phoenix Interagency Dispatch Center.
Tuesday the fire had scorched around 116,000 acres, but crews reached about 48% containment.
The air tankers carry thousands of gallons of fire-suppressant liquid called retardant. The bright orange solution is dropped strategically in the path of the flames, slowing the fire and helping firefighters create containment lines around it.
“On top of that, it’s for firefighter safety,” Price said. “It’s making sure that these guys know the lines are out there and they know that they’ve got the backup.”
[SLIDESHOW: Getting the tankers in the air]
Tuesday, the tarmac at Mesa Gateway buzzing with activity and jet wash.
Ground crews raced to refill tankers as they swooped in. One of the 9,400-gallon DC-10 tankers could be refilled with retardant and back in the air in 15 minutes. The smaller aircraft, carrying around 3,000 gallons, could be filled up in about six minutes.
Depending on the day, pilots can fly between eight and 10 missions, all without leaving the planes.
[CONTINUING COVERAGE: Arizona wildfires]
“They eat in the plane and are going back and forth to these fires and making sure that there’s no delay in response time,” Price said.