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Oklahoma Forestry Service turns to the sky to give ground crews a fighting chance against wildfires

OKLAHOMA CITY – For the past week, huge fires have sparked throughout the state, destroying forests and burning homes to the ground.

The flames burn high and hot, making it impossible for fire crews on the ground to put them out.

That’s where the air support comes in.

Drew Daily, with the Forestry Service, says they provide air support to give the firefighters on the ground a fighting chance.

Daily said, “That`s exactly what we were doing in Guthrie, was decreasing fire behavior by slowing the rate of spread and also flame length. Decreasing flame length by utilizing the aircraft.”

The massive CL-415 air tanker, or “Super Scooper,” is fresh off the line and it made its first ever water drop in Logan County this week.

Right now, it’s stationed at Wiley Post Airport under the control of the Oklahoma Forestry Department, at a cost of $50,000 a day.

It’s a price officials say is worth every penny.

Kevin Merrill, the national amphibious aircraft manager for the Forestry Service, says, “At Guthrie with Fort Supply reservoir, we did 13 loads in a little under two hours, dropped 21,000 gallons of water. It`s a very, very effective fast aircraft.”

The aircraft spends 12 seconds on water, and in those 12 seconds it uses these probes to gather nearly 1,600 gallons of water.

While the single engine air tankers carry only half the amount of water as their “Scooper” counterparts, Johnny Broome says the small planes are more accurate.

Broome said, “We can do a lot of surgical type work, we can get in, in close places, it’s very effective aircraft on a fire. We work very close with the ground personnel and drop very close to them.”