Critical Fire Resource At Airport

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Fire agencies have multiple resources on hand to fight fires.

Oregon Department of Forestry has a contract to use an airtanker this fire season. One of those is now stationed at the Medford Airport: air tanker 6-2. Two loads of retardant were dropped over the fire in Merlin on Thursday.

“Every time you see a retardant bomber load, it’s about $20,000 now,” said ODF’s Brian Ballou. “Jackson and Josephine Counties pay for part of the freight.”

Oregon Department of Forestry is willing to pay for the aircraft. When it comes to wildfires, firefighters can’t do it alone without air-tankers. Over the past 10 years in Southern Oregon, ODF has fought hundreds of fires that burned over 5,000 acres.

“What retardant does is that it gets a fire line that we can’t get people safely into yet or we just don’t have the equipment on the ground to move to that area,” explained Ballou.

Air tanker 6-2 is one of two in Oregon that ODF uses. Air tanker 6-0 is also available, stationed in Redmond.

“Which would be kind of handy for us in case we need a second one,” said Ballou. “It’s not too far to bring that one up.”

ODF says the contract for air tanker 6-2 is flexible depending on what happens this summer. The aircraft will be in Southern Oregon at least till September.