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Super scooper planes aiding fight against Elmo Fire

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Posted at 11:01 AM, Aug 08, 2022

KALISPELL – Crews are continuing to battle the Elmo Fire where containment has grown to 55% while burning 21,345 acres.

A key to getting the blaze in check is battling the flames from the air and among the tools being used are super scoopers that dump close to half a million gallons of water each day while fighting the Elmo Fire.

“The most important thing is that we’re supporting the ground folk troops. I mean that’s a really big part of it,” explained Bridger Aerospace Director of Marketing Communications K Mita.

Bridger Aerospace is one of two U.S companies with super scoopers helping combat the fire.

“This airplane we’re standing in right now is the only airplane personally designed to fight fires,” K Mita explained when we stopped by Glacier Park International Airport.

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It’s a design that has proven incredibly effective with only a 12-second scoop time to get water to the firefighters on the ground.

"They started with these two tanks; 1412 gallons combined. And then basically built an airplane around it and this is what they came up with,” Kita told MTN News.

First Officer Ben Houston has seen firsthand why this is important.

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“A lot of the country we’re working in is pretty rural, and some of it has no road access. So, to get anything more than a backpack up there is a pretty big challenge.”

The company based out of Bozeman has been up to the challenge.

“The scoopers have been pretty effective and they’re starting to get a handle on it when I showed,” Houston said. “But we have a good, two good water sources really close to the fire, so I kind of anticipated, you know, that we could put a lot of water on the fire and be pretty effective.”

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Houston has seen his fair share of fire in his 13 years of flying and continues to be impressed by those fighting on the ground.

"The guys on the ground have done a really good job and gotten around a lot of it, and the fire activity has definitely slowed down,” Houston concluded.