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Texas A&M Forest Service stations two airtankers in College Station ahead of wildfire season

Posted at 10:16 AM, Aug 22, 2023

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — As temperatures heat up across the state of Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a wildfire disaster as fire personnel work with specialty equipment to suppress fires.

With more triple digit temperatures in the forecast for the Brazos Valley, the Texas A&M Forest Service has stationed airtankers in College Station.

Wes Moorehead, associate director and fire chief for the Texas A&M Forest Service, said the department uses multiple airplanes to combat wildfires, but here in College Station, you’ll find two super scoopers.

“They are made to scoop off of open water lakes and then deposit that water onto an active fire scene,” Moorehead said. “Other aircraft, they will be loaded at the airport with retardant or water and then fly to the fire location and drop it. They’ll have to return to the airport and get reloaded.”

These super scoopers are said to be rapid when dousing a wildfire, but exactly how much water can one of these airtankers hold?

“These in particular hold 1,400 gallons, which is a sizeable amount of water,” said Moorehead. “Typically, a firetruck will hold around 500 gallons, so three times the amount of water a local fire truck can deliver.”

Well over halfway into the year and Texas is burning away by acres.

“Since January 1, we’ve actually seen 3,000 wildfires burn in the state of Texas, burning a little over a hundred thousand acres,” Moorehead said. “These triple-digit temperatures are actually driving the moisture out of fields and driving the wildfire scene that we have in Texas right now.”

More than 60 days of no rain across the Brazos Valley and Central Texas — hot and dry weather — continues to fuel more fires.

Moorehead said airtankers are most beneficial when helping firefighters fight wildfires on ground.

“When you’ve got a state as big as Texas, it really does take aviation assets like these to be efficient and effective when putting out wildfires,” said Moorehead.

Moorehead also said nine out 10 wildfires are caused by human activity, and it is important to be mindful of how we all play a part this wildfire season.

The super scoopers will remain in College Station until drought conditions improve across Texas, and here in the Brazos Valley and Central Texas.