Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

T-21, an airtanker assigned to the base this spring, makes a retardant drop on the Stony Fork Fire on Forest Service land in North Carolina on April 17, 2010.

Successful Fire Season for Chattanooga Tanker Base

Southeast Region, (AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, NC, PR, SC, TN, VI)
National Fire Plan, Firefighting*

When spring fire season starts in the South, pilots, dispatchers, and crews turn to National Park Service Air Tanker Base Manager Doug Ivey and Assistant Air Tanker Base Manager Matt Derstine at the Chattanooga Airport. The tanker base staff provided ground support services for eight flights on five fires, delivering over 20,500 gallons without injuries. During spring 2010, Ivey and Derstine were assisted by Mixmaster Ricky Hughes, Ramp Manager Randy Reagan, and Air Tanker Base Manager Garnett Strother.

Matt Derstine (orange vest) loads retardant onto T-21 while T-21 Crew Chief Michael Houston checks the number two engine. T-21 is a 1964 Lockheed P-3A Orion capable of carrying 2,550 gallons of retardant. The aircraft is owned by Aero-Union Corporation out of Chico, California.

The Chattanooga Tanker Base crew mixes and loads all retardant for missions flown from the facility. The tanker base, a U.S. Forest Service facility to which the National Park Service contributes staffing, has the capacity to store 30,000 gallons of mixed retardant along with covered storage of 75 tons of unmixed retardant.

This spring was a relatively quiet fire season. For comparison, in 2007, the last "average" season, the tanker base supported 30 flights. Tanker base staff took advantage of the situation to complete improvements such as installing much needed water loading valve, repairing and replacing one 6" valve and two 4" valves, and repairing the clay valve on the water tank inlet. The staff also conducted training and completed proficiency flights for assigned aircraft.

Contact: Doug Ivey, Air Tanker Base Manager
Phone: (423) 892-6861

*This story supports Department of the Interior initiatives.