To look outside, one wouldn't think that fire season is just around the corner. The past two mornings the thermometer hovered above freezing. And a layer of clouds cooled the Sierra Nevada foothills today.
But Cal Fire's fleet of North American-Rockwell OV-10A air attack aircraft and Grummun S-2T air tankers were busy preparing for fire season. As I listed to one of the air operations frequencies, I heard the pilots talking back and forth as they coordinated practice runs at two target areas.
The pilots of Air Tankers 80, 86, 89, 94 and 95 took turns dropping their loads at practice areas located near Georgetown and Bear Valley. Meanwhile, Air Attacks 120, 340 and 460 were in the air as well.
We'll soon be listening to these same pilots as they drop their cooling loads on real fires over the sky's of El Dorado County.
In the picture, Cal Fire Tanker 88 runs up the center of the 2008 Clay Fire in Placerville, California, and drops its load of fire retardant on Division Mike, a group of fire engines led by Diamond Springs Fire Chief Todd Cunningham (Chief 8100). Division Mike was assigned to suppress the head of the fire as it ran up a ravine toward a cluster of houses.