Thursday, September 7, 2006
Airport: An ally in fighting fires
BY DARCIE FLANSBURG
The Redlands (CA) Daily Facts
REDLANDS – The Redlands Municipal Airport played a key role in last week’s Emerald Fire, providing a space for the California Department of Forestry. “Anytime there is a fire in the area, the job of the airport is to support the California Department of Forestry helicopter operations,” Housley said. During last week’s fire, Redlands Municipal Airport not only provided the Department of Forestry a “helibase” but also sheltered fire crews while they were on breaks from fighting the fire.
According to Housley, the airports long west ramp is the optimal location for a helibase with plenty of space for support vehicles.
The city-owned airport regularly houses individually owned private planes, with no commercial traffic. The Emerald Fire limited the use of the airport for residential pilots, but Housley said that they were more than willing to help.
“People out here are very understanding,” he said.
During fire season, Housley plans for the west ramp to be used for firefighting needs.
“If I have airplanes that need tie down space, I don’t have them do it in the west wing,” he said.
At the height of the Emerald Fire. the airport was supporting eight helicopters that rotated in order to fuel up and let pilots take breaks.
“It’s a real efficient operation. I was very impressed with how they did it,” Housley said.
For his part, Housley issued notems to any incoming planes to make them aware of airport’s heavy traffic due to the fire.
“The SuperAwos Unicom notifies airplanes that are trying to land,” he said. “It makes (pilots) aware of traffic.”
The notem is a supplement to the federal notice that is issued by the city.
Housley often gets complaints from airport neighbors or businesses about pilot activity, but during the fire, not one complaint was issued.
“CDF understands the needs of the airport and accommodates that,” he said.
For Redlands Manager of Aviation Jim Ott, the Department of Forestry’s use of the airport gives the location another purpose.
“It justifies us having an airport here,” Ott said.
During his time at the airport, Ott has seen at least three major fires in the area. For him, the firefighter activity may be inconvenient for regular traffic, but it is necessary and “worth it.”