Heavy smoke grounds Tulare County wildfire tankers

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Crews said heavy smoke has grounded the planes used to drop water and retardant on the flames because of safety concerns. (KFSN)

The bad air quality is creating a big problem for firefighters battling the Cedar fire.

Crews said heavy smoke has grounded the planes used to drop water and retardant on the flames because of safety concerns.

"Right now, it's looking the way it is, I don't know if we'll get much flying this afternoon," pilot Wayne Faw said.

It's a sit and wait game at the Air Attack Base in Porterville.

The U.S. Forest Service said these planes should be in the air fighting the Cedar wildfire in Kernville but instead are trapped on the runway.

The reason is that thick smoke is pouring in from the large wildfires across the state of California.

"When you can't see your target, you can't hit," Faw said.

Faw has been flying his plane over the wildfire for the last couple of days. He's been dropping air retardant to help put out the growing blaze that's now at 15,000 acres.

However, weather like this he said makes fighting fires extremely dangerous.

"The mountains are kind of gray, you can't see the other aircraft," Faw said. "I'm flying another aircraft and to just pick him up to see it, it's a challenge."

It's a challenge that creates an even bigger problem for the firefighters on the ground trying to get the wildfire under control.

"It's not good," said Raul Contreras with the U.S Forest Service. "It helps the firefighters out there when they're doing structural protection when they're coating the ground so it doesn't burn so it does hamper the efforts."
Related Topics:
newscal firewildfiretulare countyPorterville
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