The Chowchilla City Council recognized Doug Thiel of Thiel Air Care Inc. at its meeting June 28. Thiel was commended for his assistance in helping put out a fire near Avenue 26 on June 22. The large vegetation fire closed roads and threatened Ronald Reagan Elementary School.
The Chowchilla Volunteer Fire Department responded to the fire. Madera County Station 5 from the Central California Women’s Facility was called to assist. The heavy smoke in the area resulted in a four vehicle collisions on the Highway 99 overpass, as well as another accident in the area. Due to the poor visibility, police, assisted by city crews and the highway patrol, closed roads in the area.
The fire started in the slough behind the school and quickly spread, due to extremely dry conditions and high winds. Thiel, a longtime resident and crop duster, volunteered to air-drop water, which helped put out the fire and protected Reagan School along with other properties in the area.
Mayor Waseem Ahmed presented a certificate to Thiel in recognition of the spontaneous and unsolicited valuable service he provided to the Chowchilla Fire Department. Chowchilla fire Chief Harry Turner told the council and audience this was not the first time Thiel had helped the department.
Thiel was born in Madera and raised in the Le Grand/Chowchilla area. He comes from a long line of pilots. His, dad, Ed Thiel, was a commercial pilot and was always interested in crop dusting, but chose a career in farming.
After high school, Doug Thiel attended Merced College, where he was a member of the Blue Devil baseball team. He was on a Baltimore Orioles’ minor league team for two years. He then returned to college and graduated with a degree in ag business from Fresno State.
In 1977, he began working part time for his uncle, Bob Gudgel, a Chowchilla crop duster. Thiel says Gudgel gave him his start in flying.
The Thiel family moved to Texas for for five years, and when they returned to Chowchilla, Thiel flew for Gudgel. In 1986 he accepted a job in Firebaugh for Ron Wilson. He said that is where he learned to fly at night. In 1991, Thiel became a partner with Vance Aircraft in Firebaugh before starting his own business, Thiel Air Care, in 1971.
In 2013, Thiel contributed to Disney’s animated movie “Planes.” To give the main character in the film, Dusty Crophopper, the authentic sound of an actual crop duster, a large crew from Disney recorded the sound of Thiel flying his plane. Thiel said it was quite an experience. And yes, he did get film credit.
Thiel served on the airport advisory board for many years, supported Little League and other community events.
|Chowchilla News Day
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