Wildfire Air Tanker Arrives for Duty at Reno-Stead Airport - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Wildfire Air Tanker Arrives for Duty at Reno-Stead Airport

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They do some of the most dangerous work to save our land and property. Year after year, brave pilots take to the skies against imposing odds. The weather may have turned rainy, but that has no bearing on how hard BLM Air Attack Base manager Mike Kidwell and pilot Mike Maloney are preparing to fight from the air at the Reno-Stead Airport.

Manager Kidwell ran through the list of the preparations they make during the off time: “All the air systems, our paperwork, our equipment and practicing loading the airplanes." Pilot Maloney told us they “Get established with everything we have to do here at the base, base procedures, airport procedures and so on."

We witnessed one drill, practicing the loading of 800 gallons of fire retardant into the plane. Then a pilot check of the A02 Air Tractor controls, on the plane that just arrived here to its new base at Reno-Stead Airport from fighting fires in the Southwest. Pilot Mike was there: “We were down in Arizona, down in the heat. And it was great to get back into it out West again."

Yes it's all a lot of work, but there's nothing he'd rather be doing. As he told us, "I like the smell of smoke in the cockpit!" Mike is from out East. He only comes here on a 100-day contract to fight our worst wildfires. As he said, "The airplane's capable, its needed, and we feel like we're doing something." Manager Kidwell agreed: “We prepare like it's going to be the worst fire season in the world. And if it's not, that's good…if it is, we're prepared to handle that."

Mike and Mike are torn. They wish for a quiet fire season, but at the same time they can't wait to get this air tractor into the air, stopping wildfires from spreading. They can't predict what kind of fire season this is going to be, but they're already very ready.

And once in the air, it's all dangerous work. Crashes happen almost every year. Like most everyone who takes the controls, pilot Mike has had his share of close calls…but he has people to save. Weeks may go by here with sheer boredom, and then there are the days where you save a life, or you save some houses and make a difference in somebody's life. That…is their reward.

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