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Air Support

California's fire season is off and running. Air tankers and helicopters are playing a valuable role to limit the damage.
Crews have a wild fire near Prather is 50% contained.  It broke out just before 3 p.m. off Lodge Road, behind Sierra High School.

46 acres burned, but no homes were damaged.

“It's shaking out to be a potentially devastating and dynamic fire season,” said Capt. Ryan Michaels of Cal Fire - Fresno Co.

Luckily, California has plenty of air support, which plays a vital role in limiting the damage of a wildfire.

“Sometimes ground access is difficult to get vehicles or hand crews to the fire, but an aircraft can get directly into it very quickly,” said John Harpain, Manager of Fresno’s Air Tanker Base.

The central location of Fresno’s Air Tanker Base makes it ideal for planes to touchdown and go.  Tankers are able to reload 1,200 to 2,500 gallons worth of fire retardant in less than 10 minutes.  Pilots must push themselves all day long because they do not fly at night for safety reasons.

“We have multiple fires burning and they can be diverted from fire to fire depending on the need,” said Harpain.
In Prather Monday, air tankers quickly swooped in and doused a grass fire burning off Black Mountain and Lodge Roads.

“The pink retardant acts as a barrier and slows the fire and allows the crews to catch up with it,” said Capt. Michaels. 

Choppers used a nearby pond to grab water and then dumped it on flames.

“The helicopters work on hot spots in and around the crews giving them some safe area to either tie into or keep progressing,” said Capt. Michaels.

Louie Macias has lived in this area 28 years.

“This is the second time it's been that close,” said Louie Macias, a resident.
Macias hopes the state does not cutback funding for air support.

“They’re great.  I mean you can't beat them,” said Macias.
It's a dangerous job that everyone involved takes pride in doing.

“It’s about saving lives, property and resources,” said Harpain.

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Fresno, CA

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