FIREWATCH: Fighting fire with 'ping pong balls'

Firefighters have many different ways to fight wildfires in our region. It might surprise many people that one of their most important tools can fit in the palm of your hand.

Posted: Jul 11, 2019 6:44 PM
Updated: Jul 11, 2019 6:44 PM

Speech to Text for FIREWATCH: Fighting fire with 'ping pong balls'

Below is the closed-captioning text associated with this video. Since this uses automated speech to text spelling and grammar may not be accurate.

the firewatch tonight -- king at the primo mark 3, otherwise known as 'the ping pong ball machine'. fire crews here at the siskiyou rappell base tell me with this machine they can control everything, like how many balls are dropped, the speed they're dropped at, and essentially, the fire on the ground." they look like ping pong balls. they feel like ping pong balls. but these little guys serve a much bigger purpose. "it's a good tool to use to cover the ground where people can't get into." matthew schutty with the siskiyou rappell crew tells me the tiny balls are filled with potassium permanganate. they're injected with antifreeze.. and about 45 seconds later - you've got flames. they're dropped from helicopters or drones to help with prescribed burns. but they're also used for fire suppression to create back burns. they're dropped places hand crews can't get to because of steep and dangerous terrain. a major benefit for the men and women on the ground. but schutty says there is a trade- off. the mission is riskier than a regular flight. "youre spending a lof of time 50 - 100 feet right above the trees and you know if something goes wrong, the results are generally catastrophic." incendiary ping pong balls have been dropped from helicopters since the 70's. but in the last two years - technology has evolved - allowing them to be dropped from drones. the latest development was put to use for the first time ever right here in southern oregon. last year - crews used it to help with the klondike and taylor creek fires. steve stroud with the office of aviation tells me crews had no other option because of heavy smoke. "if the pilot can see where he's going and he can't see the mountains he can't fly." schutty says the drone technology may be relatively new, but it's taking off quickly. "i think it'll be one of the areas where drones actually take away some of the helicopter work." in grants pass, emma balkenbush, newswatch 12. keep watching newswatch 12 all this week we are bringing
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