Local company, known for firefighting nationwide, responds to Upriver Beacon Fire

Local company, known for firefighting nationwide, responds to Upriver Beacon Fire

Just minutes after the Upriver Beacon Fire blew up in East Spokane, the General Manager at Aero-Flite, Inc. was fielding calls from the Forest Service.

“Literally as I was walking out, I saw the plume of flames, it hit home, this our home,” said Shane Sullivan, GM of the company.

Aero-Flite is equipped with the manpower and capability to respond to forest fires across the nation, and pulled in four of its large planes for the Upriver Beacon Fire.

Two RJ85’s or “Retardant Ships” were called in from Medford, in addition to two Super Scoopers to serve as aerial support for ground crews.

“If the fire is really intense pilots will put retardant just outside of the fire,” said Mike Lynn, an aerial firefighter of 40 years who now heads up Aero-Flite’s flight operations. “The fire will bump up to it and it really slows it down.”

He says scoopers dropping water often target the flames, right ahead of firefighters. Their scoopers hold 1,600 gallons of water and need about a mile of lake or river to scoop. At the Upriver Beacon Fire, Newman Lake was used to re-fill.

The company, which is extremely busy this time of year, is based near the Spokane International Airport, and is contracted by the Forest Service.

“We go wherever the tell us to go,” said Sullivan, “we are part of their entire apparatus to defend the public from wildfire.”

According to Sullivan, Aero-Flite is the only private company in the world that operates their particular aircraft.