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Collaborative Efforts by Cal Fire and McClellan Jet Services Improves Retardant Base Infrastructure and Effectiveness of Aerial Firefighting Efforts in Northern California


Collaborative Efforts by Cal Fire and McClellan Jet Services Improves Retardant Base Infrastructure and Effectiveness of Aerial Firefighting Efforts in Northern California

McClellan, Calif. (August 17, 2015) — McClellan Airport is serving as a critical Northern California hub for the collaborative firefighting efforts led by Cal Fire and the United States Forest Service.

The collaborative efforts between US Forest Service, and Cal Fire allows for critical firefighting coverage in the surrounding areas.  “We are very excited about this partnership.  Everything is running smoothly”, said Jeff Powers, USFS Regional Aviation Officer.  As of this date there have been over 40 missions flown using McClellan as the base of operations for the USFS tanker 118 C-130. The USCG Air Station plays an important role in providing maintenance support for the aircraft.

Fully loaded C-130’s and Very Large Air Tankers(VLAT’s) deploy from Cal Fire’s McClellan Airport Retardant Reload Base to battle drought induced wildfires in all of Northern California, Nevada, parts of Oregon, as well as more immediate surrounding areas. During 2014 and early 2015, Cal Fire, in conjunction with McClellan Jet Services/ McClellan Park and ICL (Cal Fire’s  contract company providing reload base personnel, equipment and the actual retardant product) collaborated in order implement significant improvements to the reload base by increasing its tanker reloading pits from two to five, increased the retardant storage capacity from 13,000 gallons to 86,000 gallons, improved mixing capability from 300 to 700 gallons per minute and upgraded permanent delivery plumbing and nozzles for refilling the tankers.  After opening this newly improved facility in July, 2015, Cal Fire has dispatched 406 aircraft missions delivering over 1.6 million gallons of retardant in less than 30 days.  This far exceeds the typical delivery at McClellan for an entire fire season of just over 1 million gallons. “The number of flights and gallons delivered vary from day to day depending on the needs of the incidents or on other factors”, said Robert Wheatley, Cal Fire Battalion Chief.  “We may pump a minimal amount of retardant one day but the next day it may be in excess of 100,000 gallons”.  Wheatley stated.

McClellan Airport can support the largest of any air tankers operated or contracted by Cal Fire of the USFS. The improvements allow the reload base to simultaneously load multiple tankers in the “Very Large (VLAT) and Large Air Tankers (LAT) categories with retardant loads of approximately 12,000 and 3 to 5,000 gallons respectively per aircraft.  Recently some of the MAFFS units (Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System) in the Air National Guard C-130 aircrafts have been dispatched to and are operating out of the McClellan Airport. These aircrafts are configured with self-contained aerial fire retardant dispersal systems with the ability to hold 3,000 gallons of retardant. MAFFS aircraft and crews require larger facilities and infrastructure specific to the Air National Guard operations that suits McClellan, a former Air Force base, well. “The services and equipment at McClellan are uncommon for most air tanker bases, especially in California,” said Brian Estes, Cal Fire Deputy Chief.   “Most air tanker bases across the United States, and certainly in California, are designed for smaller, initial attack aircrafts, or maybe up to the larger air tankers. McClellan is able to support both”. Estes stated.

The mission of all aerial tankers is to slow down the spread of a wildfire by laying down retardant “fire lines” in strategic locations allowing ground crews time to establish more substantial containment lines around the fire perimeter. McClellan airport and the Cal Fire reload base have and continue to provide significant impact in the extinguishing efforts of the wildfires affecting Northern California and neighboring states over the last seven years. Since 2008, the Cal Fire reload base at McClellan airport has proven to play a vital role as a safe and efficient base airport for Cal Fire, USFS, and the Air National Guard air tanker aircraft as they conduct their mission to protect life and property due to wildfire. McClellan Jet Services and McClellan Park are proud to partner with these agencies. The relationship is an excellent example of the benefits for everyone when governmental agencies and the private sector work side by side.




McClellan Airport began serving as a staging base providing services for and facilitating Fire Retardant Reloading for Cal Fire’s contract DC-10 Air Tanker.  McClellan Airport is the most successful base conversion in the US and is home of the largest Fixed Base Operator (FBO) in the greater Sacramento region, one of the largest in Northern California.  MJS is responsible for the aviation property management, leasing and marketing at McClellan and plays an integral role in the development of the airport.  This fully-operational airport has become the Gateway to Business and General Aviation for the Sacramento region.  McClellan Airport features a 10,700 ft runway, full IFR instrument approach and has the only 24/7/365 FBO in the Sacramento Valley with more than 1.5 million SF of aviation property.