Above: Air Tanker 262, a CL-415, on the ramp at Rapid City Regional Airport, June 3, 2016. @BlackHillsNF photo.
Two air tankers with water-scooping capabilities are now positioned at Rapid City Regional Airport following an assignment at Gaylord, Michigan. Tankers 261 and 262 can skim the surface of a lake scooping up to 1,600 gallons of water into their tanks. If a scoopable lake is near a fire they can put large quantities of water on the blaze, helping the firefighters on the ground (who actually put out the fire). The CL-415 aircraft typically work in pairs, one following the other as they refill the tanks and make the drops.
The agencies have previously scouted the lakes in the Black Hills and identified locations for the tankers to scoop, including Angostura Reservoir, Keyhole Reservoir, and Deerfield Lake.
The Black Hills National Forest (@BlackHillsNF) sent out a Tweet today asking recreationists to give them a wide birth:
Please allow CL 415 Scooper Planes using a lake or other body of water room to do work in wildfire suppression.
The air tankers are a national resource and are frequently moved around depending on wildfire potential. The assignment at Rapid City is only temporary.
It has been a fairly quiet fire season in the Black Hills so far, but the dispatch center has logged 69 wildland fires this year. Most were less than an acre but three of the more recent were 18, 20, and 193 acres. I imagine the firefighters working on the Storm Hill Fire near Hill City, South Dakota in April would have appreciated a little aerial support.