Helicopter team helps douse wildfires in New Jersey by dropping water over the flames

Anthony Johnson Image
Tuesday, April 18, 2023
Helicopter team helps extinguish New Jersey wildfires
What does it take to put out a raging wildfire? It's an acrobatic dance in the skies above the flames to keep the fire contained. Anthony Johnson goes behind the scenes with more on the efforts.

BAYVILLE, New Jersey (WABC) -- What does it take to put out a raging wildfire? For the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, it's just as much a battle in the air as it is on the ground.

When wildfires began to spread last week in New Jersey, it took a team of choppers to douse the flames from above.

The Air Tractor 802 played a key role in knocking down the flames that were raging in West Milford and the Lakehurst area.

When filled with water, the aircraft can weigh up to some 16,000 pounds.

Pilots like Dan Phillips of the Coastal Air Strike have to maneuver the aircraft to just 60 feet above burning tree tops in order to drop water and fires.

"The biggest challenged is putting this water around where these firefighters want it," Phillips said.

"Letting the aircraft know where to drop, how to drop, ensuring that the ground forces are out of the way when those drops happen," Forest Fire Warden Robert Gill said.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service kept the pilots busy working long hours all of last week. It took a combination of land and air attacks to extinguish the fires across the state.

"We're cooling the fire so that it gives the firefighters on the ground to get to the spot that they're directing me to so they can get that fire out," Phillips said.

"It's a lot more difficult than you see and it's a credit to our pilots that we have that when they drop that water from either an aircraft or a bucket, there's a lot that goes on," Gill said.

The team says they are ready to get back in the air whenever duty calls.


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