Pilot shortage grounding CAL FIRE planes

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California’s long and deadly wildfire season is taking a toll on firefighting pilots, causing some burnout.

California's long and deadly wildfire season is taking a toll on firefighting pilots, causing some burnout.

CAL FIRE says it's been forced to ground as many as six aircraft at a time because of staffing shortages.

Pilots typically work a six-day on, one day off schedule with long winter breaks, but with fire season extending into winter, more pilots are getting exhausted, and there's no one to replace them.

CAL FIRE Deputy Director Mike Mohler said half of this year's tanker pilot trainee class decided not to sign on.

"You train those pilots, and they may determine as they go through the training, it may not be for them. It is very dangerous with a very specific skill set. So some start the training and say, 'No, this is not for me.'"

An average of four of the state's 23 tankers were grounded last month due to the lack of staff.

CAL FIRE says it compensates for it by using privately-contracted planes and locking up several air tankers for exclusive use on California fires.
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