Thick, black smoke billows into the sky. Suddenly, across the dark horizon, an aircraft appears, dropping retardant onto the flames hundreds of feet below. It’s an image we see as we watch the news, hypnotized by the danger and the miraculous efforts of firefighting pilots as they maneuver their aircraft through the haze and ash to douse the blaze, saving lives, homes and landscapes.
The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) aviation program plays a significant role in fire fighting efforts each year on public lands, not only across Arizona, but wherever pilots and firefighters may be called to duty throughout the nation. But the BLM’s aviation management program reaches far beyond its heroic firefighting efforts. The program’s mission includes supporting wildland fire and prescribed fire operations, disaster response, wildlife census, wild horse and burro operations, habitat management, range survey, cadastral survey, law enforcement, range land management, photo mapping and search and rescue.
To accomplish the fire program’s mission, pilots utilize a variety of aircraft including helicopters, Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATS), heavy airtankers, air tactical aircraft, smokejumper aircraft and large transport aircraft.