Friday, May 23, 2014

James Daniel: Firefighters take to the air in the Panhandle - Texas

KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports 

Amarillo, TX - Area firefighters will now have an advantage from the sky when fighting future wildfires. 

 The Texas A&M Forest Service brought two single engine air tanker planes to Amarillo as part of a special firefighting task force for the Panhandle's wildfire season.

"The aircraft is a dream to fly," said pilot James Daniel. Daniel has been flying the aircraft for more than a decade across Texas fighting fires. He just arrived in Amarillo late last week and already assisted local firefighters in a grass fire east of Canyon on Monday.

"It's a big asset," said Daniel. "It assists the ground personnel with containment of the fire and that's our objective, to do what we can to help them."

Each plane is equipped with 800 gallons of fire retardant, which can make a difference in containing fires.

"To have that less amount of exposure to the firefighters is better for everybody," explained Texas A&M Forest Service Regional Fire Coordinator Troy Ducheneaux. "It will help keep the property damage low, especially for residential structures. We want to make sure that life and safety is paramount for everybody. So that's what we look at when we're bringing in this aircraft."

The aircraft can reach anywhere in the Panhandle in less than an hour. "It really helps in areas where they may not have ground personnel available yet, or either rugged terrain where personnel may not be able to get to," said Daniel.

The planes were not in our area during the Fritch wildfire, but they will remain in Amarillo until they are needed somewhere else in the state.

The City of Amarillo is loaning the forest service space at Rick Husband to house the planes at no cost.

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