Thursday, June 30, 2011

Crews Changing Strategies to Fight Gulf State Park Wildfire

(Tim Reid)

(GULF SHORES, Ala.) - Crews are dropping ping-pong balls full of chemicals and doing back burns to get the Gulf State Park wildfire under control.

The blaze has burned through more than 600 acres, and with back burns, the acreage could jump to 1,000.

Firefighters spent most of Wednesday waiting for conditions to improve and equipment to be fixed so they could continue efforts to put the wildfire out.

Storms Tuesday night hurt crews more than they helped them. There wasn't enough rain to quench the fire, and the heavy winds stirred up smoldering embers which could have reignited the blaze. The rains also made the ground damp enough that control burns had to be put off.

Alabama Forestry Commission officials say the giant water bucket used on the Chinook helicopter to dump thousands of gallons of water on the fire also malfunctioned Wednesday. It's now sitting idle, as crews try to get it repaired. 

A helicopter from Florida is dropping the ping-pong balls that ignite when they hit. That, in essence, is creating a control burn dropped from above.

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