JOSEPHINE COUNTY, Ore. — Aircraft have been essential in gaining ground on wildfires in Southern Oregon especially when it comes to protecting homes and structures.
“It just really saves the day and it keeps those guys safe…,” said Jimmy Takach, U.S. Airforce.
Jimmy Takach is a JTAC for the U.S. Airforce; He’s the middle man communicating with a high-level aircraft called an RC-26 and firefighters on the ground.
“I have an airplane…I’m still speaking air force to him and speaking fire to these guys…,” he said.
The RC-26, also called the D-RTI, can see through smoke and fly 15,000 to 17,000 feet above wildfires.
“And this is super important for the firefighters because they don’t know what the fire’s doing until the smoke clears enough to see it with their own eyeballs…,” Takach said.
Takach says the plane is essential in finding spot fires as they spring up in real time and before they become much larger fires.
“We’re here to make sure firefighters stay as safe as possible by giving them real time fire line information and real time spotting or anything else really that they need in order to expedite their job immensely,” he said.
While also being aware of where fires are in case there’s any last minute evacuations.
“Now, because they know ten minutes ago that the fire started here. It gives them enough time to start mandatory evacuations,” Takach said.
But the DRTI isn’t the only helping hand from the sky. Kale Casey from the U.S. Forest Service says they’re using three drones too.
“These drones don’t have accidents, they don’t get tired, they don’t need lunch breaks, they can fly all night long…”
He says it’s been a huge help in protecting homes and structures especially with the Taylor Creek and Klondike Fires threatening communities.
“That’s what helped us really save those houses and keep the fire on the right side of the Rogue River instead of worrying about endless spot fires…,” Casey said.
As the Klondike Fire edges towards homes and businesses, Casey says aircraft will continue to be a vital part of their tactical plan making firefighters’ lives a bit easier.