Poor visibility impacts fire fighting efforts from the air

MEDFORD, Ore. — Many pilots for air tankers and resource planes plan to touch down, fuel up and take right back off. It’s the best way to fight wildfires as quickly as possible.

But that can prove difficult when there’s thick, smokey air. Much like flying through dense fog, it can be dangerous because of the low visibility.

According to Oregon Department of Forestry officials, air tankers had to be grounded for delayed periods Friday because of the smokey skies.

“It puts our pilots at risk because they’re not able to see,” Melissa Cano with ODF said. “They have to rely entirely on their gadgets and also they have to be able to see where they’re dropping.”

Cano said this is a problem they often have with wildfires burning in or near the Rogue Valley.

“Living in the Rogue Valley, it’s something that we deal with often because we live in a punch bowl, if you will. And inversion does like to take place here often,” Cano said.

Aside from fire fighting impacts, an official with Mercy Flights said they had to stop their helicopter services because of the poor visibility. Their planes were still being used on Friday.

Flights were not affected by visibility levels at Medford’s airport Friday as of 7:20 p.m.

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