East County News Service
April 16, 2017 (Ramona) -- As the temperatures continue to rise region-wide, CAL FIRE San Diego is beefing up preparations for fire season by opening the Ramona Air Attack Base in Ramona.
Beginning April 17th, CAL FIRE will staff two S-2T fixed wing air tankers and one OV-10A air tactical platform at the Ramona Air Attack Base, the oldest air attack base in CAL FIRE’s system of 13 strategically placed bases. The OV-10s are newer, larger faster and more maneuverable than smaller and older aircraft that they replaced.
Both of these air tankers are capable of delivering 1200 gallons of fire retardant per drop and have a maximum operating range of 500 miles when fully loaded.
In addition to the aircraft positioned at Ramona, CAL FIRE operates 21 S-2T airtankers, fourteen OV-10A air tactical platforms and twelve UH-1H Super Huey helicopters, making up the largest department owned fleet of firefighting aircraft in the world.
The U.S. Forest Service has refused to land its air tankers at the Ramona air base, claiming the runway is too short. But those gutsy guys and gals from CAL FIRE have already been landing the same planes there during last year’s wildfires.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob and other local officials have long sought to persuade the Forest Service to use Ramona’s air base rather than have delays while federal air craft fly in from an adjacent county. The USFS has continued to refuse that request, but did agree to move tankers to Brown Field in Otay Mesa.
Meanwhile, Cal Fire crews will again be protecting our region using the Ramona air base this year, in what could be a serious wildfire season after new growth fueled by winter’s record rains dries out across our backcountry.