Help from above extinguishes trackhoe fire

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Loyd Star Volunteer Fire Department and employees of MathisDozer were going to fight a burning trackhoe the conventional wayMonday afternoon – until they received a little help from above.Literally.

Trackhoe operator Pete Allen was clearing stumps in a woodedarea off Oil Field Road with a crew from Mathis Dozer whensomething caused his John Deere trackhoe to erupt into flames.

“I think maybe it was a ruptured hydraulic line, but that’s justa guess,” said crew supervisor Brad Mathis.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

As the flames sent black smoke into the air and the crew waitedanxiously for Loyd Star’s fire engine to bounce through theroadless pasture leading to the area where the burn was raging,crew members noticed a helicopter circle above with somethinghanging from it. They thought the pilot was just looking.

But Nate Smith, a helicopter pilot from Utah who is in the areawith Glico Aviation, wasn’t just looking.

“I flew over and saw they had a fire and went back and asked mysupervisors if I could help,” he said. “They gave me permission, soI came back with water.”

Glico, a Belt, Mont., company, is currently contracted byVeritas, a seismic company currently working in areas of LincolnCounty. Smith uses his copter to fight fires and do seismic work inhis home territory, and he just happened to see the smoke billowingtoward the sky Monday.

After landing the chopper and discussing the situation with thefirefighters and crew, Smith made several more runs from a pondjust beyond the clearing. He lowered the helicopter’s water bagapparatus to point-blank range, dropping water on the burningtrackhoe.

“We never have helicopters around here,” said Loyd StarAssistant Fire Chief LaDale Williams. “We saw him circle and wethought he was just coming by to look, but then he came back withwater.”