Great balls of fire: new technology helps fight fire with fire - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Great balls of fire: new technology helps fight fire with fire

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LOLO -

In the course of fighting wildland fires, effective new technologies have been created to take on the flames.

One device, known as a ping-pong or dragon ball, is being deployed right now in Montana.

These are also known as plastic sphere dispensers.

Mike Cole, the Fire Public Information Officer, said that the dispensers are really useful to fight forest fires, especially in inaccessible areas.

Cole said the Lolo Peak Fire, which you can see right behind me is one of the perfect areas to use these resources.

The dispensers are filled with chemicals that create a heat reaction, which are dropped from a helicopter.  "The balls hit the ground and the fire starts inside the ball and melts the ball. That's the same as if you were lighting a match in a patch of grass. So there will be a little string of those lines on the hillside and those are the ones that will eventually back down the hill, join together, and create that black," said Cole.

Cole said that the purpose of the dispensers with the Lolo Peak Fire is to keep the fire from coming over the top of the Bitterroot Divide and down into the Bitterroot Valley.

He said that the dispensers create their own backing fire, which allows a low intensity fire to keep ahead of the main fire.

"That creates a big black area between the top of the ridge a down the slope, so if a fire comes rolling up here like it did the other day it will run to that black and there's nothing left to burn. It will go out by itself," Cole said.

Cole explained that there is a certified operator in the helicopter that dispenses these balls into the fire.

This operation can be dangerous because it creates fires, so it must be done by a professional.  

Mike said that they plan on using these dispensers every day for the Lolo Peak Fire.

He said that they use them in the morning because that is when the fire is less active and the smoke is most visible.

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