Tanker 88, assigned to the Grass Valley Air Attack Base. Photo: YubaNet

NEVADA CITY, Calif. March 1, 2017 –  Airtankers used by CAL FIRE to fight wildfires are currently training in the airspace over Nevada and Placer Counties. The training will continue for the next few days. The tankers and their pilots use the regularly scheduled “spring training” to get back into fighting shape. The Grass Valley air attack base is home to two ST2 tankers, two spotter planes and one helicopter. During the winter season, all air tankers are stationed at Sacramento’s McClellan base.

In 2016, year five of the drought, CAL FIRE and the Forest Service brought additional resources on earlier than ever to fight any new starts. Traditionally, CAL FIRE’s air tankers make their way from McClellan to Grass Valley in June.

Air Attack 230, the “spotter” plane. Photo: YubaNet

The Grass Valley Emergency Command Center processes an average of 24,000 calls yearly and is jointly run by CAL FIRE and the Forest Service. Throughout the fire season, the Forest Service staffs the ECC from 7:00 am-7:00 pm and CAL FIRE dispatch center is operated 24 hrs a day. The joint ECC is staffed by 10 dispatchers, daily, during the fire season.

From late April through October, 4 pilots, 2 air attack officers, and additional staff are daily on duty for initial attack at the GV Air Attack Base representing both CAL FIRE and the Forest Service. There are two assigned CAL FIRE tankers, 1 CAL FIRE air attack plane, 1 Forest Service air attack plane and the Forest Service Bell 407 helicopter, complete with the Helitack crew.