Oregon Dept. of Forestry
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News Release
Night Operations of Single Engine Air Tankers Continue - 07/29/20

JOHN DAY, Ore. — Unsettled weather patterns this week may provide an opportunity for night time use of Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) flying from the Grant County Airport in John Day.  Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has been working with CO Fire Aviation for more than a year to develop safe protocols and guidelines for supporting ground fire resources in wildfire suppression with night time SEAT drops.  The initial training and coordination of firefighters and pilots occurred during the 2019 fire season, refresher training and flight evaluation on simulated fires were successfully completed last week.

Red Flag Warnings for critical fire weather, including thunderstorms, high temperatures, and windy conditions, were issued by the National Weather Service throughout much of eastern Oregon this week.  The increased possibility of lightning ignitions, combined with already dry wildland fuels, could result in rapidly spreading fires throughout the region.  Precipitation, which came with some of the storms, may cause fires to smolder and creep until fuels begin to dry again and fires grow quickly.  SEATs are used in coordination with ground resources to slow the spread of fire.  The aircraft is capable of dropping 750 gallons of retardant and is highly maneuverable in wildland fire situations. 

The SEAT Base, used for reloading the aircraft with fire retardant, is located at the Grant County Airport.  Use of SEATs at night will increase the air traffic at the airport during these operations.  In addition to the night time SEAT operations ODF’s multi-mission aircraft will be brought in to be used for detection of fires during both day and night shifts.  These fires may otherwise go undetected until they are much larger in size.  ODF’s Partenavia Observer aircraft is equipped with infrared and Electro-optical cameras, capable of still pictures and video, and has mapping capabilities used to locate fires and relay the information to dispatch and firefighting resources.

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