We are all very much aware of how devastating the wildfires have been this past year. For many Californians tuning into the news, you often see the image of an air tanker or helicopter flying over fires dropping fire retardant to slow or stop the spread of these flames.

The 2017 wildfire season in California has been one of the worst in memory, and one of the most destructive on record. A confluence of circumstances, beginning with an unusually wet winter and spring, stimulating the growth of wildland vegetation, followed by the hottest California summer on record, has created a tinderbox at the ground level in the state’s wildlands.

While it seems like each year the state goes on alert for fire season, people may not realize the extent to which general aviation and our local airports play a crucial role in stopping the spread of these fires.

We have 16 air attack bases all throughout our state ready to respond to crisis as it happens, serving as the base of operation for planes and helicopters. It is the hard work of a small number of pilots and ground personnel that operate these air attack bases to support fighting wildfires in our state.

Since early October, Cal Fire has responded to more than 250 wildfires, at its peak we were battling 21 major wildfires that consumed over 210,000 acres. More than 8,000 buildings destroyed and damages expected to far surpass $1 billion. The impact of these wildfires will be felt for years and years.

With everything from California’s Fast Attacks Grumman S2 Air Tankers and Bell UH-1H Helicopters, the state contracts for VLAT’s (very large air tankers) DC-10, 747, BAE-146 to assist, it was all hands on-deck to combat these fires. Cal Fire has the largest aerial firefighting flee in the world, and we are proud of the work we do to protect our state.

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