“How an airport helped save a town,” Greg’s December Flying Carpet column & photos

How an airport helped save a town

“What’s that smoke?” I wondered, startled, as I strode to meet friends at a downtown Flagstaff music festival. At first no one else seemed to notice the plume billowing overhead — I guess it’s a pilot’s nature to peer continually upward — but sidewalk crowds soon began gathering to snap cell-phone photos.

There was a perverse beauty to this gargantuan column of soot piercing a cobalt sky, and I found myself craving my own camera to photograph orange-and-white air tankers and helicopters swarming to attack under a vivid midday moon.

Flagstaff is not a big place, and the thought of so large a fire close to town was mortifying. But for the moment, no one seemed to know anything about it. Just south of town at Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, however, Wiseman Aviation owner Orville Wiseman had just received a tearful call from his son, Grant.

“Firemen just came to our house, Dad; they said we need to evacuate right now!” The airwaves soon trumpeted news of the ‘Hardy Fire” threatening the city’s east side. An email from Orville waited when I got home. “Guess whose house was one of the closest to the initial fire…”

*Read Greg’s entire December Flying Carpet column, “How an Airport Helped Save a Town,” here.

Photos: The Schultz Fire viewed from Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, Arizona; a landing Erickson Air-Crane helitanker. *See more fire photos here.

©2010 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

One thought on ““How an airport helped save a town,” Greg’s December Flying Carpet column & photos

  1. Hey Greg,
    Great story! I just read it yesterday in the Flight Training mag. I hadn’t started my flight training at Pulliam yet, so I missed all the chaos on the ramp.

    I can vividly recall the awe and alarm we felt all the way out here in Williams as we saw those two big fires build like a massive volcanic eruption before our very eyes.

    I also can’t believe how much maintenance those heli-tankers require. They must cost more dollars per flight hour than your son’s F-16. OUCH!!


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