Firefighters in Kansas will be getting extra help to battle flames from the sky.
“The quicker you are on top of the fire, fighting it, the better results you have,” says Ag Pilot Bill Garrison.
That is the idea.
“The more coordinated resources we can get on scene, earlier, the better,” Rodney Redinger of the Kansas Forest Service adds.
Garrison is an experienced AG pilot who can now say he also is a firefighter in the sky.
“When we get a phone call, we go dump water on fire,” he explains.
It’s that simple.
“There is just some areas where you can not get fire trucks,” Redinger explains.
What Redinger says the state realized after the Highland fires in 2017 was that pilots like Garrison just wanted to help.
“Flames were over the cockpit of the airplane,” he says. “I was flying at night.”
Redinger says, “It just wasn’t as easy to get access to those resources.”
Now, it is. Redinger says it was essentially about closing a communication gap. Instead of people like Garrison trying to coordinate with fire departments, the state has stepped in, and established a form of contact on the ground to make that easier.
“What we wanted to be able to do was expand those local connections out across the state,” says
Pilots like Garrison can now use their skills behind the sticks to help from above.
“It can be kind of exciting,” he says.
“It is another tool in the tool box and when used appropriately can make a big difference,” Redinger says.
There are currently seven of those pilots in the state. Each goes through a day of field and tactic training to better understand what kind of help firefighters need from the ground.