'Aircraft is vital' for firefighting, but California needs more

- The aircraft has become indispensable for firefighting, but California is almost at the point where we have more big fires than we can fight.

With more than 50 aircraft in its firefighting fleet, Cal Fire already had the nation's biggest firefighting air force, including Uncle Sam's. 

Bob Valette, a Cal Fire tankers pilot for 37 years, says fires have gone mad. "I have not seen fires burning like this in my entire career," said Valette.

The fire storms of the last few years have forced Cal Fire to hire additional private aircraft and request federal aircraft, especially big ones, into the fight.

"Aircraft is vital. Aircraft slow these fires down and firefighters on the ground extinguish and contain them," said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox.

This year, Cal Fire hired a privately owned 747 jumbo jet that can disperse up to 24,000 gallons of flame retardant, enough to fill an 18-by-36-foot swimming pool, all at once or in several runs. 

Four DC-10 jumbo jets can carry 12,000 gallons. Normal airliner size plans carry 3,000 to 4,000 gallons, still a huge amount of firefighting power. The 23 often seen Cal Fire-owned S-2 tankers carry 1,200 gallons each, directed to their targets by 14 spotter planes -- all former military aircraft. 

In all, from private companies and the federal government, Cal Fire has access to 50 more fixed wing aircraft of all sizes. "Since 97 percent of the fires are created by people, we need more air support, helicopters, bulldozers, fire trucks and hand crews on the ground.”

“We need more people to combat these fires. We are pumping thousands of gallons of retardant every day, every hour across the state right now." said Cox.

Cal Fire also owns 11 retardant dropping choppers that can carry 360 gallons, equal to a four-foot by three-foot fish tank. But for sheer size, the Skycrane, a former military heavy life helicopter, can haul 2,650 gallons, which is almost as much as a normal airliners sized jet. 

In all Cal Fire has access to 50 more contract and Federal helicopters. All of it is needed and all of it is dangerous in severe fire storm turbulence. "When you get a big fire, all the intense flames burning that's going on, sometimes it's a real e-class ride, let me tell you," said Valette.

Though California is getting 19 additional aircraft of its own in the next few years, it needs many more.
The aircraft has become indispensable for firefighting, but California is almost at the point where we have more big fires than we can fight.

With more than 50 aircraft in its firefighting fleet, Cal Fire already had the nation's biggest firefighting air force, including Uncle Sam's. 

Bob Valette, a Cal Fire tankers pilot for 37 years, says fires have gone mad. "I have not seen fires burning like this in my entire career," said Valette.

The fire storms of the last few years have forced Cal Fire to hire additional private aircraft and request federal aircraft, especially big ones, into the fight.

"Aircraft is vital. Aircraft slow these fires down and firefighters on the ground extinguish and contain them," said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox.

This year, Cal Fire hired a privately owned 747 jumbo jet that can disperse up to 24,000 gallons of flame retardant, enough to fill an 18-by-36-foot swimming pool, all at once or in several runs. 

Four DC-10 jumbo jets can carry 12,000 gallons. Normal airliner size plans carry 3,000 to 4,000 gallons, still a huge amount of firefighting power. The 23 often seen Cal Fire-owned S-2 tankers carry 1,200 gallons each, directed to their targets by 14 spotter planes -- all former military aircraft. 

In all, from private companies and the federal government, Cal Fire has access to 50 more fixed wing aircraft of all sizes. "Since 97 percent of the fires are created by people, we need more air support, helicopters, bulldozers, fire trucks and hand crews on the ground.”

“We need more people to combat these fires. We are pumping thousands of gallons of retardant every day, every hour across the state right now." said Cox.

Cal Fire also owns 11 retardant dropping choppers that can carry 360 gallons, equal to a four-foot by three-foot fish tank. But for sheer size, the Skycrane, a former military heavy life helicopter, can haul 2,650 gallons, which is almost as much as a normal airliners sized jet. 

In all Cal Fire has access to 50 more contract and Federal helicopters. All of it is needed and all of it is dangerous in severe fire storm turbulence. "When you get a big fire, all the intense flames burning that's going on, sometimes it's a real e-class ride, let me tell you," said Valette.

Though California is getting 19 additional aircraft of its own in the next few years, it needs many more.
 

Up Next:


  • Popular

  • Recent

Stories You May Be Interested In - Includes Advertiser Stories