An Early Start To The Fire Season

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RENO, NV - With a Red Flag warning out, warm temperatures and windy conditions, the tanker base at Stead was ready for action.

"When the bell goes off we just have to spring into action, suit up, load up and go to the fire," says tanker pilot Danny Moseley.

Contracts for the tankers usually start June First. It began a week early today because of the conditions. Historically, fire season should be just ahead, but the agencies who respond to wild fires have already been busy.

It started in April and continues.

"Every week we've been having right around a dozen to two dozen fires around the state," says Paul Petersen, the Deputy Fire Management Officer for the Bureau of Land Management. "

We brought in an additional single engine air tanker to Stead earlier this year as well as we started a retardant contract."

So, it figures to be a long, busy season ahead for Peterson, Moseley and everyone else and there will be some new challenges which brings us back to the issue of resources.

The big tankers we've seen for decades have been disappearing. The air attack load has increasingly fallen to helicopters and the small single engine air tankers or SEATs that Moseley will be flying.

They can't drop thousands of gallons of retardant at a time, but their advantage is quick, close-in response, hitting a fire early, hopefully before it can get out of hand.

There are seven of them based around the state, two here, but for the first time this year they'll be moved around like the big planes.

That means planes based here could be fighting fires elsewhere at times.

Making sure they and other resources like ground crews are where they are needed, when they are needed is the job that falls to guys like Petersen.

"It's like a big chess game.

"We really have to stay about three or four chess moves ahead of Mother Nature and anticipate some of those movements."