Nevada’s investment in Super Scoopers proves worthwhile in avoiding dramatic wildfire season

Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 5:48 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - In 2020, the Silver State took its fire fighting efforts to a new level.

In July, we introduced you to the Super Scoopers, a pair of ‘flying boats’ made with the sole purpose of fighting wildfires. Their design allows them to fly on top of bodies of water, gathering 15-hundred gallons of water in seconds, before heading off toward the center of burning fires.

“It definitely had great value on a lot of the fires this year in Nevada," said Kacey KC, State Forester/Firewarden with the Nevada Division of Forestry. “It dropped a lot of water on a lot of fire and it really did help out.”

Tim Sheehy owns Bridger Aerospace, the only U.S.-based company to operate Super Scoopers. This fire season, both of their Scoopers - a CL-415EAF made by Viking Air - were exclusive assets to Nevada. Their home base being the Minden-Tahoe Airport.

Sheehy says while surrounding states saw record burns this year, Nevada made it through the bulk of fire season without a major catastrophe.

“Us having a native scooper presence on the ground here, I think it could be the difference of why Nevada had the season it did and others didn’t," said Sheehy, a former Navy Seal who operates Bridger Aerospace out of Belgrade, Montana.

The Super Scoopers were used on roughly two dozen fires in Nevada. The state also sent them over the border, helping with fires in California, Oregon and Washington.

“It doesn’t haul Amazon packages in the winter, it doesn’t fly rich people to ski trips," said Sheehy, speaking on the Super Scoopers' sole purpose. "It hauls water and fights fire and that’s all it does and it does it well.”

While its capabilities are impressive, all types of firefighting is dangerous. Paul Petersen, a State Fire Management Officer with the Nevada Bureau of Land Management, says there was a 50 percent increase in human-caused fires in 2020.

“It’s a highly risky, highly dangerous business," said Petersen. "The public recreating responsibly can help reduce that risk to our responders.”

Sheehy says Bridger Aerospace has plans to grow its fleet to eight Super Scoopers within in the next few years. He adds Nevada was the only state in the country to have exclusive access to these game-changing firefighting equipment.

“They (Nevadans) should be proud of the NDF and BLM for having the vision to create this," said Sheehy, who added the Scoopers could wind up in Australia or Chile for their fire seasons.

But you can also expect to see them back in the Silver State.

“We’re very hopeful we can continue this partnership going forward," said KC.

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