SPOKANE, Wash. - Between the Bissell and Laurel Road fires, fixed wing aerial firefighters have had a busy week.
“We enjoy intensity,” said 27-year-old veteran pilot Eric Johnson, referred to by fellow airman Keaton Mitchell as the Jedi to his Padawan. The student didn't shy away from how stressful the flights can be.
As you can imagine, it would take a lot more than nerves to keep these aerospray pilots out of the air.
“I think what happens once we launch and go into working mode, you just kind of compartmentalize whatever fear you have, and go out and do your job,” said Mitchell.
And flying above flames and dropping water is not a simple job.
“There's some fires that, as you come into them, you realize the dangers are elevated there. A lot of time when there's fires in the mountains, we're also dealing with winds, and a lot of thermal turbulence and wind-caused turbulence. Up drafts, down drafts, and then visibility is restricted through the smoke. It all makes a fairly interesting job,” said Johnson.
Despite the clear dangers presented there, these pilots remain humble about the crucial role they play in fighting a fire.
'There's a lot of people involved in fighting fires, especially the guys that are on the ground,” said Mitchell. “When I look at the flames, those guys are down in there, so you know, my job's kind of easy by comparison.”
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