|By Fred Harl|
|By Mark Nankivil|
We had a great trip, and high on my list of things to do was visit as many of the Cal Fire tanker bases as we could along the way. A few years ago, our visit to the Alamogordo, New Mexico airport to see the Neptune Aviation Services P-2 Neptunes configured as air tankers gave me the urge to see more and going to California made that possible.
Cal Fire (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) is the State's primary fire protection for the wildlands, using both ground and air forces to achieve their mission.
The first Cal Fire base we visited was in Sacramento at McClellan Airfield. Sacramento is where the Cal Fire aircraft fleet is maintained, and where the contractor, DynCorp, is based. The Cal Fire fixed wing fleet is compromised of S-2T tankers (with a 1,200 gallon retardant capacity) and OV-10 Broncos which are used as air tactical "spotters" to survey the fire scene and guide the tankers into position for their drops. Along with the fixed wing fleet, Cal Fire has a helicopter fleet equipped with the UH-1H Super Huey. The Super Hueys are used for retardant or water drops as well as for transportation needs for the ground forces.
We want to thank Barbara Marando with Cal Fire for escorting us out on the ramp and patiently answering our questions.
Elsewhere at McClellan, we noted one of the Coulson C-130 air tankers on the ramp. This aircraft was under contract with the U.S. Forest Service.