GRANTS PASS, Ore. — No exact timeline has been given, but the Illinois Valley airport is now ready to go for the helicopters to move in. The Grants Pass and Illinois Valley airports are no stranger to hosting air attack during fire season and this year will be no different.
Last year, both airport locations were vital to containment of the Brimstone, Labrador and Big Windy fires. The Josephine County airport manager has been told by the U.S. Forest Service a helitack base will be set up to help in new fire fight.
In the past, the airport manager said the helitack pilots have put an emphasis on radio communication with pilots and ground crews around them. In the past couple fire seasons, the Illinois Valley airport has also made changes to be more accommodating for fire crews including adding a special access road for fuel tankers.
“There’s some new smokes that have popped up from Mount Ashland and off to the west, Mount Fullom, Fullom Peak. So, the Forest Service is looking to set up a helitack base right there at Illinois Valley. They’ll be very close to the fires,” said Josephine County Airport Manager Larry Graves.
A helitack base doesn’t mean the airport will close down to other pilots, but everyone will need to use extreme caution.