San Diego

Facing Increased Fire Danger, CalFire's Ramona Air Attack Base Staffed Early

In the face of an increased fire danger, some officials are gearing up to face the flames early. 

CalFire's Ramona Air Attack Base usually opens in May, but because of the high fire danger, they have moved the date up to April. 

Officials say it is not a matter of if a large fire will spark, but when -- especially on hillsides with dry brush. 

"We are looking at the grass, there's a lot more grass this year out there; I'm expecting it to be, unfortunately, a really busy fire season," said Burke Kremensky, Battalion chief of air operations. "I think we'll end p using these planes a lot in San Diego."

Cal Fire's air tankers can drop 1,200 gallons of fire retardent on a fire at a time. The planes play a key role in battling fires.  The retardent starts off as powder, which then mixes with water to create a jelly-like consistency. 

Cal Fire's goal with air attacks is to keep fires to 10 acres or less.

The air tankers are already loaded with fire retardent and can get anywhere in San Diego in about 20 minutes.

Two tankers are based in Ramona, but if a fire is in full swing tankers from out of the area can come to Ramona and fill up with fire retardent. Helicopters can take off from the base too.

Kremensky, in charge of coordinating attacks from the air, said at times he will listen to six radios at once. He says the air attack is such a critical aspect of the fire fight espcially where the terrain is rugged.

"Our goal is to suppress fires at 10 acres or less," said Kremensky.

He's also taking notes, looking at the fire activity down below. Kremensky organizes when air tankers will drop fire retardent and when helicopters will drop hundreds of gallons of water.

Cal Fire says its concerned that homeowners don't have proper clearance around their homes, and remind homeowners now is a good time to do it if you haven't already.

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