Air crews invaluable in fight against Arizona wildfires

Posted at 9:08 PM, Apr 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-28 00:08:06-04

PHOENIX — The Crooks Fire has burned more than 9,000 acres and on Wednesday some aerial crews were grounded because of the lack of visibility because of the smoke.

At the Prescott Airport, two Large Air Tankers (LATs) were sitting on the runway waiting for their orders to bring fire retardant to the Crooks Fire. However, the smoke was so thick that they were unable to fly in the morning.

The crews can be requested at any time and can get in the air in around 15 minutes.

Greg Eliel said he just flew into Prescott — this is his first wildfire of this season, and says each wildfire is different. “It’s always impressive, with the winds, flame lengths, and honestly it’s intimidating sometimes,” he said.

Two of the LAT’s on-site of the Crooks Fire are able to hold 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of red fire retardant, depending on the aircraft. The planes look like commercial airliners, but all the seats have been removed to make space for the retardant.

“I’m a tool in a toolbox, just like a shovel,” said Delbert Hunt, who flew in from being based in Montana.

Hunt is the Captain of the MD-87 that has been flying the Crooks Fire — he said communication is key as a lead plane will direct him on areas that need retardant.

The retardant is used to protect structures, and usually slow or stop the growth of a wildfire.

As of Wednesday, the cost to fight the Crooks Fire is over $9 million.

There are nearly 800 firefighters, 13 helicopters, and other aircraft to help.