LAKE TAHOE (CBS13) — The U.S. Forest Service has a new tool in its arsenal to fight wildfires called the Super Scooper.
The shiny new plane at the Lake Tahoe airport is drawing lots of attention. It can repeatedly scoop water from a lake and drop it on fires.
Amphibious aircraft manager Kevin Merrill says it’s the only one in the United States.
“Our niche is we can deliver a lot of water for a long period of time over a fire,” he said.
Video from the plane’s manufacturer shows how the plane skims the surface of a lake at speeds close to 100 mph, gathering up water through scoops on the plane’s belly.
About 12 seconds later, the tanks will be full with more than 1,600 gallons of water, and the pilots are off to the fire. They can drop every five to 10 minutes, depending on the location of the water source.
“There’s some legwork that has to take place up front to get some water body sources identified and we’re working through that process,” he said.
The plane has already helped with the Kyburz Fire and a few other small ones in the Tahoe basin.
“We can service a lot of area using a lot of these little lakes with Lake Tahoe as a backup” he said.
All the pilots have extensive sea plane backgrounds and don’t touch down on a lake unless it’s safe.