Air tankers refill at Ronan Airport to fight Garden Creek Fire
RONAN – Friday was the first day that Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) stationed at the Ronan Airport were used to drop fire retardant in an attempt to rein in the Garden Creek fire. The lightning-ignited fire is burning in a rocky, remote area two miles northwest of Hot Springs.
SEATs have a speed range of 150-200 miles per hour and can deliver up to 800 gallons of fire retardant.
Slurry, a term commonly used for fire retardant, is made up of about 85 percent water, 10 percent fertilizer (ammonia phosphate and sulfate ions), and five percent iron oxide, clay or bentonite for coloring according to the U.S. Forest Service Wildland Fire website.
Because the slurry is mixed at the Ronan Airport, pilots have to return there to refill said CSKT fire management support dispatcher Victor Stevens.
There were as many as five SEATs making the roughly half-hour long trip to drop on the Garden Creek Fire and return. Pilots coordinate with air command and the lead plane to ensure the slurry is dropped precisely where ground personnel need it.
Stevens noted that they made around 50-55 loads of slurry that day, coming out to around 30,000 gallons dropped.
SEATs are not the only aircraft utilized in firefighting efforts. While SEATs focus their efforts building contingency fire lines, helicopters join the battle by dropping buckets of water directly onto the flames and on cooling hot spots.
As of press time, according to a CSKT fire management press release, the Garden Creek Fire is 3 percent contained and has consumed 500 acres. The fire continues to consume pockets of unburnt vegetation and trees within established perimeter lines.