MALVERN, Ark. (KTHV) - The Arkansas Forestry Commission sends up to 10 planes across the state to survey for wildfires.
With aerial surveillance and communication this group spares Arkansas of serious fire damage.
After preliminary checks Pilot Bob Porto is ready to fly for the Arkansas Forestry Commission. He's part of the fire detection group that scans the state looking for wildfires from above.
"Any smoke that we see, any time right now is subject to being uncontrolled and we have to look at it," says Porto.
On any given day Porto, can join up to 10 other pilots to cover Arkansas eight districts. Communication plays a crucial role in saving land in the heat of the moment -- like what happened last week near Amity and Gurdon.
"We're able to identify the smoke and determine that it's uncontrolled then we're able to get on our dispatch radio identify the latitude and longitude and then they can get a crew immediately on the scene as is practicable," says Porto.
Detection pilots can notify grounds crews about spot fires. These spot fires can be carried by the wind sometimes thousands of feet away from the original fire.
"Because when they're on the ground they can't see anything. What they're determined is what's in front of them. They can have the fire jump behind them on the other side of a hundred acre fire and they would never know it. And so our job is to let them know if the fire is inside the lines or if it's broke over the lines," says Porto.
The Forestry Commission tells us they have 16 planes in their fleet. Two of those have water tanks on them to dump on stronger fires. Porto says typical flight times are around three hours, but sometimes pilots can be in the air up to seven hours in a day.