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Helitankers Help Suppress Oregon Fires


For years Oregon’s summer fires have not only destroyed stands of valuable timber, but also damaged the regional economy.  In the 1960's, an average of 414 fires annually were burning 5,660 acres and costing some $243,000 to extinguish.

By 1968 the State Forestry Department had strongly committed to a new weapon by contracting three new helicopter tankers, known as Kaman H43A helitankers, from Rosenbalm Aviation in Medford.  The helitankers carried sling-mounted tanks or buckets capable of accurately dropping 250 gallons of water or chemical retardants on remote fires long before firefighters could hike in to create containment lines.

The Forestry Department first deployed helitankers successfully in 1966 against the Oxbow Fire west of Eugene.  The following year the Department stationed a standby unit at Roseburg.

The department summed up its early use of helicopter-delivered fire suppressants in a report, stating, “Helitankers have been firmly established as an integral element of the Oregon State Fire Control System.  Experience indicates that helitankers can be highly successful in reducing damages from fire and reducing the overall cost of suppression.”

Source: "Activities In Fire Control." Southern Oregon Digital Archives. SOU, 1969. Web. 19 Sept. 2014. .

Dmitri Shockey is a high school junior attending Logos Public Charter School. Dmitri also attends Rogue Community College part time and after high school hopes to start a career as a foreign correspondent. Volunteering with As It Was has given Dmitri a unique opportunity to glimpse what a career in journalism will be like.