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Suzette Cook/Citizen
Fighting fire with fire

Suzette Cook, Reporter

You can hear the blades spinning in the distance. Florida Forest Service crew members are hoping that the helicopter on its way from Withlacoochee to the Goethe State Forest headquarters will be a big one.

“Hear the bird?” one firefighter yells out. “Sounds like the Huey!”

Within 10 minutes, a Bell UH-1H, aka “the Huey,” with the No. 24 on its nose, comes into view, makes a smooth landing and is greeted by Incident Commander Jerry Horton.

Everyone’s happy to have the Huey because of the extra room. Not only will the copter carry veteran Rotary Craft Firefighter Pilot Keith Fender and a spotter but also an Aerial Ignition Dispenser that will be operated by Forest Ranger Robert Dorminey, plus thousands of plastic balls that will ignite thousands of acres. The Jan. 10 prescribed burn is officially known as the 2019 Daniels Island Aerial Burn.

Two hours before the Huey landed, about 40 Florida Fire Service crew gathered for a morning briefing and went over the incident action plan.