Brand new amphibious aircraft makes debut in Guthrie fires
By Christine VanTimmeren
GUTHRIE — Local, State and Federal resources were all needed to get this week's wildfires under control. One Federal resource was used here for the very first time. It's a large amphibious air tanker nicknamed the Super Scooper.The Super Scooper, also known as the CL 415, was the saving grace for fire crews in Guthrie. Not only was this week the first time the aircraft was used in Oklahoma, but it's the first time it has been used ever."It was designed, engineered and built from the ground up for one purpose and one purpose only and that's aerial fire fighting," said Kevin Merrill, the CL 415 aircraft manager.The CL 415 certainly did that job in Oklahoma. The extremely dry air and landscape led to unprecedented fire conditions in Guthrie. It quickly became more than local and even state crews could handle."As those continued to burn, we were seeing things that were very unusual for May here in Oklahoma," said State Fire Management Chief Mark Goeller.Around noon on Monday, Goeller knew it was time to call in the Super Scooper. Within a matter of hours the aircraft went to work.The Super Scooper had a turn around time of seven minutes from Lake Liberty to the fire. The tank can hold 1,600 gallons of water, and the plane made dozens of drops."In that short amount of turn around time we're able to drop around 17,000 gallons on the fire," said Merrill.All that water made a tremendous difference for ground crews, allowing them to do their work in less than half the time it took them before the aircraft got there. By Monday night the fire was completely contained. The aircraft then made its way to Woodward where it did the same thing."We're finding out Oklahoma is ideal for the use of this aircraft," Merrill said.For its first time on the job, the CL 415 did exactly what it was designed to do. It paved the way for our local and state resources to do what they do best."It's boots on the ground that actually put the fire out," said OFS Fire Staff Forester Drew Daily. "However, the aerial assets, they are a force multiplier for us in allowing us to construct fire line and halt fire spread."Besides the Super Scooper, the Army National Guard used its Blackhawk helicopters to drop water and two other smaller air tankers were used. There were also airborne air traffic controllers and the State Police in the air. All of that aircraft required a large team of coordinators who did an excellent job and kept everyone safe.
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