r The Spanish Fork Airport played a major role in fighting and controlling the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires. You may have seen and heard the helicopters coming and going from our local airport. When the airport manager, Cris Child, was asked about the forest fire fighting activity at the airport he provided the following comments.
“It has been an amazing thing to watch as these incredible machines take on the job of battling the immense fires. We had to completely clear the ramp area of aircraft to make room for the big helicopters. The 80 mile an hour downwash from some of these birds as they take off could flip a typical airplane upside down. We have had hundreds of support personnel stationed at the airport, thousands of gallons of jet fuel being hauled into the airport daily and tents scattered across our lawn areas. We mowed down the weeds and stationed the biggest helicopters on the old abandoned crosswind runway. When that area filled up Brandon Wilson took his bulldozer and cleared a spot on the fill dirt out by Main Street so that we could position a 3rd Sky Crane helicopter out there. At one time we had 3 Sky Cranes, a Chinook, several Huey’s, an A-Star and a Forest Service Cobra with infrared cameras mapping the fire as well as many smaller helicopters. The sign they put up at the Airport gate read “Pole Creek Fire Heliport.”
“At times I thought I was in an episode of MASH as I listened to the thump, thump, thump of the helicopter blades descending into the Airport. The FAA sent in a temporary control tower and all of a sudden we became as regimented as Salt Lake International Airport in our approaches and departures which was fun to listen to but also a great confidence builder in that we would be able to handle all the traffic safely. The community support has been incredible. On a regular basis, we have seen local restaurants bring dinner to the crews. Cases of fruit and cookies just kept appearing even a hundred or so ice cream bars in a cooler with dry ice was delivered and was a huge hit with those working here. The professionalism and expertise of the crews has been amazing. It is a big relief to hear that the fires are coming under control and soon our busy little airport will be able to return to normal.”
For your added information the Erickson Air-Crane is derived from the military Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane and put into commercial enterprise by the Erickson Logging Company. Erickson Air-Crane now owns the manufacturing certificate for the heavy-lift helicopter and has developed specialized equipment and techniques for firefighting. The water tank under the helicopter can hold and disperse 2,500 gallons of water. They also have a quick refill system that can fill that water tank in just a few minutes. The Boeing-Vertol CH-47 Chinook and Bell UH-1 ”Huey” helicopters carry external water buckets. All these helicopters are amazing and expensive firefighting tools.