Imagine traveling at 140 miles per hour through dense curtains of smoke at a mere 60 feet above the canopy of a raging wildfire. Now you might have some idea of the type of danger that wildfire pilots like Andy Taylor deal with during the course of their workday.
The rapid response of pilots fighting fires from the sky is a critical component of wildland fire management as aviators race to keep fires limited and the firefighters on the ground safe. “I’ve seen a fire go from 2 acres to 300 acres in ten minutes,” says Taylor, who later adds, “A lot of times we’re not going to be able to put the fire out. All we’re doing is helping the people on the ground.”
Taylor owns New Frontier Aviation, a single-engine air tanker company that supplies the type of planes that wildfire aviation pilots use to sustain flames.
Like any aspect of firefighting, pilots encounter their own set of unpredictable dangers, from the aforementioned visibility concerns to wind turbulence and the sudden changes in flight that is caused by dropping 5,000 pounds of flame retardant from their hull. Yet they still fly in, offering another demonstration of heroism required to be a part of the wildland firefighting community.
To learn more about the dangerous and vital role that wildfire aviators play, click the above video for the latest episode in our Warriors Of The West series.
Coors Banquet is in its sixth year of supporting the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, donating over $1.5 million dollars to the foundation. Click the donate button on this page if you’d like to help protect our west by supporting the WFF.