High Desert fires keep air refueling crews busy

Redmond's Butler Aircraft pumping up to 18,000 gallons a day

Redmond crew fuels wildfire fight

REDMOND, Ore. - When fire season sparks on the High Desert, Butler Aircraft Manager Kurt Newton sums it up in two words: organized chaos.

"We've got to get these guys up in the air -- that's one of our biggest goals," Newton said Tuesday.

A seven-truck fleet and a 12-man crew pump 15,000 to 18,000 gallons every day -- and it comes with a hefty price tag.

"If you round it off to $5 a gallon, you're looking at anywhere between $60,000 to $80,000 to $100,000," Newton said.

When the tankers land at night, they get fueled up again. But it's the next day, when the planes and helicopters go back and forth from the fire lines, that the organized chaos really starts.

"We have a dispatch in the office, she dispatches to all of us and, God bless her, that's a hard job," Newton said. "Because sometimes all these trucks are rolling and she doesn't know where they are all going and there could be five or six orders on one truck at one time."

And that's not the only challenge.

"There's fires all over the state, so there are different airports trying to pull in the fuel," he explained. "Well, we are trying to do the same thing, and we really have to be ahead of it and be on our game,.

Helping the crew get back up in the air can make all the difference on the fight on the ground down below.

"It's our dire need to make sure these guys are in the air protecting people's properties and homes, so we really take that to heart," Newton said.

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