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For Now, Conditions Scrap Fern Lake Fire Air Tankers

John Heil
USFS Region 5

Officials say delays and heavy wind kept two heavy air tankers from battling the Fern Lake Fire burning in Rocky Mountain National Park until Tuesday. At least for now, the planes will not be part of the efforts to control the blaze.

Calmer winds allowed a tanker to fly over the fire Tuesday, but the drops were deemed to be ineffective. 

“They attempted a drop and those terrain driven winds made the water kind of go all over the place, and it wasn’t very effective,” says the National Park Service's Traci Weaver.

Weaver says three helicopters will continue to drop water over the fire throughout the day and as the weather cooperates.  Fire commanders ordered two heavy air tankers over the weekend when the fire exploded early Saturday morning, but both were delayed or grounded until Tuesday.

The tankers will remain in Colorado until officials feel they are no longer needed, or they are needed elsewhere.

Weaver says it's important to understand that air tankers are just one tool in the toolbox for fire commanders. While the planes are impressive to see in action, they are just part of the total fight to contain a blaze and firefighters on the ground actually do the majority of the work.

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