Planes help douse grass fire

A smoldering burn pit caught fire late Wednesday afternoon along 18 Road near Phillips and burned an estimated quarter section of grass before area firefighters and two airplanes combined efforts to bring it under control.
Giltner Fire Chief Perry Hosier reported from the scene that strong winds were apparently a factor in the fire, which broke out on property owned by Gene Gustafson. “It looks like it started in a burn pit area,” Hosier said.
“When we got here the winds were up to 15 to 20 miles per hour. It’s something that could have been burning a week or two weeks with that much stuff in a pile. The winds just picked up and with everything so dry we’re very fortunate to have the mutual aid departments and the aerial apparatus.”
Firefighters from Phillips were first on the scene, sometime around 5 p.m., and were soon joined by crews and equipment from Giltner, Marquette, Aurora and Chapman. Hampton firefighters helped at the Aurora Airport. Central City crews were en route to the scene, but were called back.
Aerial applicator planes owned by Aurora Cooperative and stationed at Traudt Aerial and Boardman Aerial were called into action, with each being filled up twice and dropping approximately 400-500 gallons per load on the site. “I think that’s what finally put a dent in it,” Hosier said.
Fire crews remained on the scene until after 8 p.m. James Jensen with Traudt Aerial noted that ag application aircraft can be a tool in such circumstances through a Nebraska Forestry Service program.
“If they get a fire that gets away from them or one they need extra help with, the local fire department contacts NEMA (the Nebraska Emergency Management Association) and then they approve it and either call the fire chief or dispatcher to line it up.”
Jensen noted that both of his two aircraft on site at the Aurora Municipal Airport were undergoing annual maintenance, though he was able to get one ready for service rather quickly. “I had to put some panels on one airplane so it took about 35 minutes from the time they called until the time we were in the air.”
Jensen called Rick Boardman at Henderson, who was quickly in the air headed for the Aurora airport. Both planes were filled with water by the Aurora Cooperative, dumped their load on the fire and then returned to be filled again, this time by area farmer Galyn Hurst, who brought his water-loaded semi to the airport.
Doug Krueger piloted the Traudt Aerial plane, while Boardman flew the plane from Henderson. “They were able to get into some areas where the fire department couldn’t get with their trucks and equipment,” Jensen said. “They thought they did some good.” Source:

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