In the midst of an early and difficult fire season, an ag pilot and several community members teamed up to stop a blaze from spreading to nearby fields.
Marty Owen spotted flames from the air while spraying crops just west of Roberts on Tuesday morning. The ag pilot of more than 20 years said he’s seen crazier things from the skies, and as for helping out, he said that’s just part of his duty.
“It’s very gratifying to watch crops grow throughout the summer and see that you have a hand in producing a safe product for our country,” said Owen.
Owen protected more than vegetables when he noticed clouds of smoke billowing up from a truck.
“It was pretty thick, black smoke, and the tires were on fire underneath the trailer,” he said.
Owen said he circled around to check on the driver, who was out safely and removing the trailer that held farm equipment. Owen said he told ground crews at the Terreton airport to come quick and bring fire extinguishers. Meanwhile, he said, he headed back to the Desert Air Ag Inc. landing strip near Mud Lake.
“(We had to) empty the airplane and clean it out from the products we were using on potato fields,” said Owen.
Within 20 minutes, Owen said he was dumping loads of water from his plane.
“With the aircraft, I was able to keep the flames from spreading into the adjacent field until we were able to receive more help from the Roberts Fire Department,” said Owen.
Owen said volunteer fire crews, growers and even a nearby farmer showed up to lend a hand.
Desert Air Ag Inc. owner Leif Isaacson said ag pilots across the board are happy to help any way they can because of their unique perspective. From the skies, they’re often the first to spot things like cows that have broken through a nearby fence, as well as aid in searches or fires like Tuesday’s situation. In fact, said Isaacson, during fire season, they keep one plane on the ground with water nearby in case a call comes in.
“That’s what we’re there for,” said Owen.
Owen and Isaacson said the truck was carrying equipment to one of their clients, but the response would have been the same had it been any other vehicle on that road.