SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) –  The Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires are the largest in the lower 48, and the fight to extinguish them is a nationwide effort. An air fleet of record size is gathered in Santa Fe, and KRQE News 13 has a firsthand look at some of the aircraft.

The Santa Fe Airport is now the main headquarters for all the aircraft heading to the Cerro Pelado, Calf Canyon, and Hermits Peak Fires. “This is where all the base operation is. So they are going in either direction wherever the command post needs them,” says Brian Moya, fire chief of the Santa Fe Fire Department, “We have eight scooper planes on the north side of the airport, two Chinook helicopters, and two Skytrain helicopters. We also have the national guard—they’re also helping with the efforts.”

This airport is large enough to handle the increased air traffic—a luxury smaller northern cities facing the flames don’t have. “We have the biggest wildfire in the lower 48. So they have thrown us a lot of resources,” Moya says. Actually, this is an unprecedented amount of resources. Officials say it’s incredibly rare to have all of these super scooper aircraft in one place at one time.


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Scott Blue is a captain of one of the scooper planes. He spent Thursday fighting the fire, making 12 drops, scooping up lake water, and strategically dropping it on encroaching flames.

“There’s two companies in the states that operate them: we’re Bridger Aerospace, they’re Aeroflite over here—the white [planes]—and this is the first time that the entire fleet has been in the same place at once, all eight machines,” Blue says. Every super scooper in the United States, according to Moya and Blue, focused on saving New Mexico’s communities from the flames. “With the President signing that declaration, we’ve moved a lot faster before the fires are even over,” Moya says.

“It’s a constantly changing animal, for lack of a better term. The fire—the wind switches, the fire switches. The speed, the humidity, the temperature. There’s a multitude of factors that play into how the fire just goes about it’s business,” Blue says. He says they are staying for as long as they are needed, and are happy to be helping.

The Santa Fire Department says they are also providing resources in Las Vegas—around a 23-person strike team is helping fight the fires. They’re also helping run 9-1-1 calls and other operations to supplement the force there. Moya says they are also still holding a donations drive for the northern New Mexico fire victims. For more information, visit the fire station’s Facebook page here, or visit their website here.