Airtanker Meant To Put Out Fires Actually Started 8 In North Idaho
An air tanker that’s meant to put out wildfires actually started several blazes Monday in North Idaho. All of the fires were quickly put out by firefighters.
The MD-87 is operated by Erickson Aero Air, a private company that contracts with the U.S. Forest Service. The tanker drops flame retardant on wildfires in difficult terrain.
Monday afternoon, the tanker took off from the Coeur d’Alene airport but the crew shortly had an emergency on their hands. Something was wrong with one of the engines and they turned around to head back to the airport.
But along the way, officials think an unknown material falling from the plane sparked up to eight wildfires.
“What we believe happened," says Jim Lyon with the Northern Lakes Fire District, "is something due to that malfunction of the aircraft sparked fires along their flight path.”
Lyon says the Forest Service and the Idaho Department of Lands were able to put the fires out by Monday night. That’s a good thing too, because North Idaho’s wildfire risk has gone from high to very high in recent weeks.
“We are getting to the situation now where obviously it’s bone dry – we’ve got probably two weeks straight of 80-90 degree temperatures.”
According to a press release from the Forest Service, the malfunctioning plane has been fixed and is back in service. The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into the incident, but does not plan to conduct a formal investigation.
Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
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