Helicopter drops 100 thousand gallons of water on Signal Mountain wildfire
HAMILTON COUNTY —
For the first time in several days, Thursday, the wildfire on Signal Mountain is under control.
A black hawk helicopter has dumped more than 100 thousand gallons of water onto the brush fire.
Johnny Dunn with the Tennessee Forestry Division has the highest job on the team.
"I have communication with the people on the ground that work with the Division of Forestry and they communicate to me as I'm in the air with that they need," he explained.
Dunn flies alongside the National Guard pilot as he stops by a nearby lake and picks up 700 gallons at a time.
"We try to find the closest water source. A five minute turnaround time is ideal," Dunn explained.
He then makes an educated guess on when and where to drop the water.
"Flying over in a Black Hawk you cannot see the ground. All you see is leaves," Dunn said.
He says communication is key.
"We kind of read each other's minds. So we kind of know what each other's thinking. When I'm flying he's got an idea of where I'm going to be dropping water," Dunn said.
Dunn is referring to his long-time partner and friend Brian Haddock.
Haddock is the incident commander on the ground.
"We got a good containment line today," Haddock said. "We wet it down."
Haddock says the work on the ground and in the air had narrowed the fire to a small spot on the mountain.
But, he says, the threat isn't over until we get a lot of rain.
"If we have a steady leaf fall that covers the ground really good and a hot spot catches up it'll start spreading again," Haddock explained.
Haddock says even when the fire is out they will have crews monitoring the mountain every day until it rains again.
He says it's likely we'll see a lot of smoke on the side of the mountain in the coming days as the fire burns itself out.
Tennessee Forestry Division says it costs $9,000 an hour to operate the helicopter.
Often times, the state emergency management agency will cover those costs.