DC-10 tanker joins West Mims Fire efforts

A helicopter makes a water drop next to the road in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on the West Mims Fire. Photo via InciWeb.

Above: A helicopter makes a water drop next to the road in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on the West Mims Fire. Photo via InciWeb.

Additional air resources arrived on Tuesday to join crews battling the 140,000-acre West Mims Fire on the Georgia-Florida border.

The Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT), a DC-10 fitted with a retardant delivery system, arrived Tuesday afternoon but was only able to make one fire retardant drop before low visibility due to settling smoke made subsequent air operations unsafe, officials said. The aircraft is capable of dumping 11,600 gallons (44,000 liters) of chemical fire retardant in a single run, and it joins more than 700 firefighters and support personnel working to contain the blaze with bulldozers, helicopters and smaller planes.

The DC-10 is stationed in Chattanooga, Tenn., hundreds of miles away from the fire. Though clear across the entire state of Georgia, that location is the closest airport rated to handle the needs of a place its size, officials said.

Crews caught a break on Tuesday — the fire wasn’t as active as it had been of late, though temperatures still hit 96 degrees with relative humidity hovering about 19 percent.

“For the first time in 3 days, the fire was not as aggressive as was anticipated,” incident commanders wrote in the Tuesday evening update, posted to InciWeb. 

Hotter conditions and gusty winds are forecast for Wednesday.

Eight heavy helicopters and six heavy air tankers will be supporting ground operations Wednesday, as conditions allow.

The lightning-sparked fire started April 6 has burned 140,400 acres and remains just 12 percent contained.

DC-10 air tanker Utah
A DC-10 on a fire in Utah. Posted on Twitter by the Alpine Hotshots September 4, 2016.

Author: Jason Pohl

In addition to writing for Fire Aviation, Jason Pohl reports on law enforcement and public safety issues for the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper.

6 thoughts on “DC-10 tanker joins West Mims Fire efforts”

  1. Orlando International Airport is a former SAC base where B-52’s were stationed. Additionally, UPS flies DC-10’s in and out all the time and it is the preferred landing strip for Air Force One. I’m pretty sure it can handle this tanker with quicker turn around time. There are other airports in Florida with large enough ruways.

    1. Even Atlanta is closer than Chattanooga. But I am sure there is more to it than just distance. Such as tarmac space availability and equipment rental costs, landing fees ect…

  2. Yeah. Totally inefficient from CHA to this fire. Possible that another, closer base will be opened in FL.

  3. Mike has it right. One of the largest runways on the East coast is 30 minutes from the fire by car. Cecil Field. Smart people would setup there. It’s semi private, semi vacant and 12000 ft runways near the fire with water supply for 10000 active duty sailors who aren’t there anymore.

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