Air tanker working West Mims Fire experiences problem releasing retardant

An inadvertent release of retardant occurred along a five-mile long path near Lake City, Florida.

Neptune's air Tanker 41
File photo of Neptune’s Tanker 41 at Boise, July 19, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
(UPDATED at 4:09 p.m. MDT April 19, 2017)

On Tuesday April 18 one of the three large air tankers working on the West Mims Fire on the Georgia/Florida border reported issues while in flight and could not actuate the gate which allows retardant to be released. While returning to the tanker base, one of the tank’s gates had a malfunction, allowing approximately 40 gallons of retardant to be released intermittently along a five mile path, Dan Synder, President of Neptune Aviation told us.

The aircraft that had the problem was Neptune’s Tanker 41, a BAe-146, according to Mike Terry, the Air Operations Branch Director on the fire. On Tuesday it dropped 5,951 gallons. It’s not clear if that included the inadvertent drop. The BAe-146’s can carry up to 3,000 gallons.

The Incident Management Team is advising anyone who was affected by the retardant to call the West Mims Fire Information Line at 904-452-4627.

The West Mims Fire has burned 21,790 acres in Florida and Georgia since it started April 6, 2017. Most of the fire is in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, John M. Bethea State Forest, and Osceola National Forest.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Willard and Tom.

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