Exclusive look inside Medford’s firefighting aircraft

MEDFORD, Ore. — Aircraft of all sizes are working together to control a fire burning just five miles from Eagle Point, including a very large air tanker, or VLAT, that can carry over 9,000 gallons of a retardant-water mix.

“Last night we put out 65,000 gallons on the large air tankers and then the VLAT did 36,000 gallons, so almost 100,000 gallons of retardant went out to it within a 5-hour span,” Justin Bohannan, tanker base manager, said.

One advantage of being so close to the airport and tanker base is the turnaround time. The air tankers can get to the Worthington Fire in about 5 minutes. From there, it’ll circle the fire for another five minutes and come back to refuel. In total, it takes about 15 minutes round trip and another ten to taxi in and fill up. The work moves about as quick as these crews, who cover fires across the region, ever see.

“They can haul a lot more retardant and a lot quicker time and cause it’s so close they can stretch out their fuel cycles,” Bohannan said.

While most of the aircraft is at their main base, the VLAT gets it’s own area in a portable base that can be taken all over the region.

Bohannan says the aircrafts are making trips constantly And will continue to do so, until the fire is under control.

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