We received the call from Zone Dispatch early in the afternoon. Fire was resported near
the small town of Keno, near the Round Lakes Golf Course. It had started near a trailer
and was spreading rapidly in the summer afternoon heat & wind.
We flew south around the Upper Klamath Lake and then cut SW to Keno. I t didn't take
long to see the smoke, or the flames. This fire was rapidly growing. There was lots of
fuel in all directions for this fire.
Dale quickly radioed the status of the fire to Zone
Dispatch. Air tankers were enroute as well as lots of
ground personnel and ground tankers.
We circled the fire and directed a few ground troops.
The first was rapidly spreading. There was massive
orange flames. We determined that the best staging
area for our support vehicles was the golf course.
It didn't take long for the air tankers to arrive from
Kingsley Field, just a short 15 miles from the fire.
There was no lead plane (usually a small twin
engine plane is used to fly through the fire zone first
and help direct the large cumbersome air tankers,
DC7s). Dale volunteered our services - we would
function as the lead plane. Cool. We made contact
with the air tankers and proceeded to fly through the
tank "bomb run" path. Cool.
The fire was really blazing, dark black smoke was
billowing upwards. Thunderheads were beginning
to form. Our "bomb runs" continued for several
additional air tankers. I wish I had my camera -
fortunately, Dale always had his.
The fire suppression efforts for this fire was under
the control of the State of Oregon. It was a semi-
residential, forested area. The Fire Boss and
assistant requested to use the helicopter to view the
fire from the air. This was a dangerous fire - to the
west heavy forest, to the east the city of Klamath
Falls with lots of grassland ready for a quick burn.
Dale agreed and the two of us in the backseat
(unfortunately, I don't recall who it was, either Stub
or Nitetime). Dale dropped us off at the head of the
fire, yes the front of the fireline. Our instructions,
recon. Dale knew that two people were of
absolutely no use at the fireline. We were to just
enjoy the moment.
The fire was roaring louder than a train! We could
not see the sun beneath the black clouds. We heard
the fire boss asked for all available air tankers. Soon
there were five units working the fire, dumping
gallons and gallons of red goop on the fire. With
such a short flight from Kingsley, turnaround was
almost immediate. The tanker crews at Kingsley
must have been working non-stop.
We watched as tanker after tanker dropped their
loads. Back in 1981 each tanker load was about
$3,500. I would guess the cost is probably double
The fire continued to roar, air tankers continued to
drop their loads. We occasionally came in contact
with other crews, but joined none. We were
reconning - and doing the best we could. We
wandered up and down the fireline. One of the most
amazing sites I have ever seen.
The fire boss was estimating the fire size to be at
least 1,000 acres and growing. We listened intently
to the radio traffic. This fire had turned into a
"project" fire. A state fire management team was
headed this way. It was early evening.
Time to start thinking about where we plan to spend
the nite. The helicopter must be shutdown and on
the ground 30 minutes after sunset. We contacted
Dale for instructions. Due to the closeness of
Kingsley Field, fire camp was to be located in K
Our support trucks headed for K Falls to rendevous
with the flight crews. Dale picked us up and we
flew into Kingsley on the helicopter.
Pretty cool - there are lots of jet fighters and other
aircraft at the Air National Guard base.
We linked up with the rest of our crew at dark. Our
first order of business, where do we eat tonite. We
drove into town and ate. Several of us lived in K
Falls. We were dropped off at home and reported to
work the next morning. Best part of helitack
operations: no nite work, maintain a normal
We reported to work the next morning at the air
base. The fire had subsided quitely nicely overnite.
The helicopter was used for recon, but we remained
at the base. We commandeered a couple cases of
Mountain Dew (official drink of Winema Helitack)
from the fire supply office. (it is the unofficial job
of all firefighters to grab hold of as many supplies as
possible, they were always used by our crew for
business purposes, never personal use).
Late in the day we were released. Back to
Chiloquin, business as usual, or we thought.