‘We have to make those judgement calls:’ Deploying Cal Fire aircraft takes careful planning

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FRESNO, California (KGPE) – As fires blaze through acres and acres of land, deciding whether to deploy firefighting aircraft takes very careful planning and weather watching.

“A lot of times you need those air tankers to be able to see one to two miles ahead of their plane because they’re a big apparatus, they’re going extremely fast, they have to get really low,” said Daniel Ramey, the public information officer for the Creek Fire with Cal Fire.

There have been times during the Creek Fire that Cal Fire says they couldn’t even see a half a mile in front of them–causing the aircraft to retreat.

“If you have so much smoke packed into an area, your visibility completely drops, it’s very hard to safely operate that and drop the retardant line so they’re gonna pull them off,” Ramey said. “And then you have the winds 30 to 50 mph–you’re gonna get all that aircraft pulled off the incident if that wind is so bad that they can’t operate that aircraft safely.”

However, Cal Fire says the lives of firefighters and the public is top priority–the most important factor in deciding to utilize or not utilize an aircraft.

“We have to make those judgment calls and the professionals at this fire to make those calls and pull them off the line if the time comes for that.”

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