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Lingering smoke may keep some aircrafts from Medford Airtanker Base

(KTVL/Genevieve Grippo)

Lingering smoke in southern Oregon has caused visibility concerns for aircraft pilots aiming at dropping retardant on the area's wildfires.

According to the Medford Airtanker Base, pilots decide what conditions they choose to fly in based on their experience and how familiar they are with the terrain.

"The pilots can make the call if they're going to fly out of here, or go to a different tanker base and fly if it's better weather," said Kevin Fecteau, Ramp Manager and Local Fleet Manager at the Medford base. "Yesterday some went to Klamath Falls because the visibility was better, so they could make a better turn."

The staff at the base said this fire season has been particularly active.

So far this season, they've already supplied over a million gallons of retardant.

In 2017, they supplied 1.2 million gallons of retardant throughout the entire season. They said, on average, they load 400,000 gallons in a season.

Fecteau said smoke isn't the only thing that could have aircrafts grounded this weekend.

The slight chance of thunderstorms could also have an impact.

"It'll make it difficult, so hopefully if that weather blows in it'll lift some of the smoke for us an help us out," said Fecteau. "If we get lightning strikes within three to five miles of the base, we'll generally suspend operations for the safety of ground personnel."

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