Airplane carrying flame retardant helps extinguish wildfires - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Airplane carrying flame retardant helps extinguish wildfires

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

The plane arrived in Chattanooga on November 4th. It's not the first time it’s been in the Scenic City but the pilot said it definitely its longest stay.

It's a day off for pilots with the C-130 Hercules, a former military plane now used for fighting wildfires. The aircraft has been flying over Signal  and Lookout Mountains after the Tennessee Forestry Division called them in for backup.

“If there is a really big fire and we don't have enough resources, we may be able to only get one aspect of the fire. Or if there is a smaller fire we can use all our resources to stop it,” said Air tanker Captain Todd Davis. 

Todd Davis and his crew are responsible for deciding where and when to spread the fire retardant on the burning brush and debris. A strategic approach for field crews. 

"It is laid on the ground in advanced to the fire, the fire will move towards it and the oxygen is taken out of the fire and it slows the advance of the fire down," said Davis.

Pilots make multiple trips a day flying over the Tennessee Valley. They've made 32 flights since being in Chattanooga and dropped over 130,000 gallons of retardant onto the fiery wilderness. 

"When we go out we just don't go looking for fire and drop retardant. It is a very structured approach to get resources out to the fire," said Davis. 

The extra back up for firefighters isn't cheap. It cost around ten thousand dollars for each flight, but Davis says you can't put a price tag on safety. 

"Helping guys on the ground, stopping the advancement of fire, helping to save a home or a natural resource.. It's pretty important," said Davis.

This pilot says he receives a lot of attention for his work, but he says the real heroes are those on the ground battling the blaze up close. 

"They are the ones out there starting early in the morning, they are digging lines all day into the night. It's a lot more strenuous activity than we do," said Davis.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will help the state of Tennessee pay for some costs to fight the wildfires.

FEMA says the agency agreed last week to reimburse 75 percent of costs.

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