Sierra wildfires keep air tankers in constant motion

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A series of local wildfires has put a strain on firefighting resources. But non-stop aerial attacks have kept the fires from spreading. (KFSN)

A series of local wildfires has put a strain on firefighting resources. But non-stop aerial attacks have kept the fires from spreading.

Cal Fire aircraft and U.S. Forest Service air tankers have taken over the Fresno Air Attack Base. After dropping retardant over the mountain fires, the planes flew right back into town to refill. Cal Fire Capt. Ryan Michaels said, "Cal Fire uses an S-2T turbo. It typically carries 1,200 gallons of retardant. They're loading here hot and immediately returning up."

Many of the smaller planes came in for a "hot load" -- a fill-up on fire retardant with the engine still running. Bigger tankers can hold as much as 10,000 gallons. It was like watching an Indy car pit stop, only these crews are racing to protect people and property.

With so many fires breaking out across the state, Michaels said resources are tight. "Both aircraft, dozers, hand crews. A lot of the Fresno resources left for those fires. At one point we had a strike team of engines from Monterey. They took off for a new fire that started late last night."

Not only is the drought impacting the fuel these fires feed on -- it is also impacting how the fires are being fought. Not as many helicopters are in the air. Michaels explained, "Some of those seasonal ponds that we routinely go to year after year are just not there."

Once one aircraft left, another one taxied up for fuel, retardant or both. That will be the case as long as fires continue to spread.
Related Topics:
wildfirefireforest firebrush fireairplanecal firefresnofresno - east central
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