High fire danger puts resources on standby

STARFlight chopper
STARFlight chopper

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A dry winter and windy Spring cold fronts mean that the wildfire dangers are high this time of year, and on so-called “Red Flag” days, fires can spread quickly.

When the fire danger is high, Travis County STARflight waits on standby.

“Here in Central Texas, we’re really doing one of two things: fighting floods or fighting fires,” said Casey Ping, STARflight program director.

Their latest resource is a Huey helicopter, STARflight 4. It is specially equipped with a water tank and snorkel.

STARflight 4 can fill up with water in just 45 seconds. It holds three times the amount of water a “bambi” bucket holds. The other STARflight helicopters use bambi buckets, which hang under the helicopters, to carry and drop water on wildfires.

“It’s much more than just dropping water,” said Scott White, flight paramedic and crew chief.

STARflight provides essential support to firefighters on the ground.

“You have a much better view about what’s going on,” said White. “How big it is, where the fire’s headed, where ground crews need to go.”

White is a paramedic but acts as a crew chief during wildfire fights. He says STARflight is training firefighters to do his job so all four helicopters can be manned at once.

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