PROSPECT, Ore. — All 4,000 feet of the runway at the Prospect State Airport are being used by helicopters to aid in the firefight, as they bring both crews and supplies right to the fire line.
Helicopters dotted the sky above prospect, constantly returning to the helibase to fill up on supplies before heading right back out. More than 400 firefighters are spending the night at the fire line, and the best way to get resources to them is by air.
“The majority of our firefighters are not returning here to the fire camp at night. They are staying out on or near the fire line in the wilderness because it’s so far to get in there and get out every day,” said 790 Fire public information officer Jeanne Klein.
Originally a fire caused by lightning from a late July thunderstorm, the 790 fire has been burning ever since.
“Also, at the time this was started, there was a very high demand for resources- meaning crews and personnel to fight the fires. So these were prioritized and all the fires are out and this is the last remaining fire,” said Klein.
The Prospect State Airport has been closed to local pilots for weeks.
“Every other day or so he calls and says ‘what’s going on? Can I come in?’ and I say ‘no!’” said airport manager Walter Ridge.
Ridge said helibases have been set up here before, but not to this extent.
“We didn’t have the transporting of men out of here like they’ve been doing now,” said Ridge.
Steep and challenging terrain has led most crews to be flown to the fire. That same terrain is also working to fire fighter’s advantage.
“Rock out cropping and a lot of natural features that are causing the fire, when they run into those features, the fire activity lessens,” said Klein.
“For now, there’s no timeline as to when the Prospect State Airport will re-open, because it all depends on progress on the firefight.”