The United States Marine Corps is still on standby to fly into action if Cal Fire requests their help with a wildfire.
“Our crews are trained. We’re on standby from July through November,” said Bill Bartolomea, Marine Aircraft Group 39 Commanding Officer Colonel.
Bartolomea’s MAG 39 includes squadrons of Vipers, Venoms, and Osprey. Venoms and Osprey pilots are trained to equip their aircraft with large buckets to scoop up water and drop it on wildfires.
“We’ve got crews on alert right now as we speak, if and when the state or the county asks us to come and help,” Bartolomea said.
The aircraft would operate out of Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton. The unique air base is a completely separate base from the much larger Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton even though the air station is right in the middle.
“We’re the only one that’s located right in the center,” Colonel Tim Anderson said.
Anderson is the Commanding Officer of MCAS Camp Pendleton, a smaller sister version of MCAS Miramar.
Anderson and Bartolomea work hand-in-hand to maintain the aircraft, train the pilots and execute missions. It helps that the two colonels have worked together before and are now next-door neighbors.
“It’s more relaxed so if there’s something bothering him or me, it’s easier for us to just walk across the driveway and talk about it,” Anderson said.
Those talks could include how Marines can help battle wildfires which hits close to home for Bartolomea. The 2007 Witch Fire forced his family to evacuate
“The firefighters ended up saving our entire neighborhood. No damage to any of the houses. Amazing,” he added.
The MCAS Camp Pendleton Marines are the only ones in the country to have an agreement to assist local governments with wildfires on civilian property.