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Fire Boss stands ready to battle brush fires

By Jeff Humphrey, KXLY4 Reporter , jeffhu@kxly.com
Published On: Jul 10 2013 06:32:20 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 10 2013 08:21:49 PM CDT
Fire Boss
DEER PARK, Wash. -

High winds and low humidity triggered a red flag warning in our area but fortunately firefighters are standing by to deal with any problems.

One unit standing by to help fight any potential wildfires is called the Fire Boss, a single engine turboprop plane that's so huge you need a ladder to reach the cockpit.

So far crews from the Department of Natural Resources haven't been too busy this summer, catching up on their chores and training. But that could all change this week as a dry cold front passes through the region.

"Well in the Spokane urban interface, with the fuels all drying out, fire can move pretty fast in the wind and with us being able to respond and knock it down early, we can keep it from becoming a big one we hope," DNR contract pilot Eric Johnson said.

One of the best ways to deliver a speedy initial attack is from the air, and the Fire Boss can make the flight from Deer Park to Spokane in 10 minutes and throw down is 800 gallon cargo on the leading edge of a fire.

"What we're really trying to do is slow down the spread of the fire and get it safe for the ground guys to get in, buy them a little time, buy them a little safety," Johnson explained.

Best of all Johnson only has to find the closest lake to refill his plane and then he's ready for another run.

"Right after it touches down we drop what I call probes out of the bottom of the keels of the floats and it rams the water up into the hopper which sits between the cockpit and the engine of the airplane and fills it up," he said.

The Fire Boss is even equipped with an infrared camera that helps him peer through the smoke to find the heart of the fire, making Johnson and his plane a welcome sight for the fire crews on the ground.

"I have seen it make critical drops in helping fires flank around homes or saving structures. Our primary mission is to save lives, property and natural resources and this is a critical tool," Andrew Stenbeck with DNR said.

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