Firefighters use tanker plane to fight wildfires. - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Firefighters use tanker plane to fight wildfires.

Posted: Updated:

RICHLAND, Wash-- The challenge for firefighters in our region is not just to put out a wildfire but also prevent it from spreading.

Firefighters use a single engine air tanker during the summer to respond to wildfires.
The plane does not put out the fire but is used to slow them down by dropping retardant in front of the fire. The retardant drops very hard.

"It could probably break bones I mean your best bet is probably to lay down facing the plane as its coming," said Adam Lattin, Benton County Fire Department

The plane holds 500 gallons of fire retardant and allows them to deliver it within 30 minutes to an hour. Today there were 10 fire departments from the Tri-County area all training on how to communicate with the tanker's pilot.

"We emphasize safety first and that starts with the pilots well being," said Chris Schetle, U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

When firefighters get the call the plane is filled with retardant by base personnel. Once in the air the plane heads towards the fire. On the ground the firefighters quickly mix more retardant for the next trip.

"You drop it in front of it and the flames stop or slow down once it reaches it."

Once the retardant is dropped in front of the fire everything it hits is non-flammable. Helping stop the fire, save houses, and save lives.