Air Tanker Use

It is good to see CALFIRE launch T1 tankers on IA and doubling up tankers early on in IA. I think this is proving to be very beneficial on many of these fires this year. Especially in the areas that have significant potential to get big quickly.


I’m thinking it may be a change in tactics looking forward to when(if) they get the C130s in service


I think if they went back to the old tactic of putting the mud directly on the fire many fires would be contained quicker. I am talking from 35 yrs of experience. 50% on the black 50% on the green worked a lot better than pretreating the green and letting the fire burn to it with no boots on the ground to support it.


When Colin Powell was Secretary of Defense he announced an approach now widely called the Powell Doctrine. It basically obtain solid intelligence and attack with overwhelming force.
In my view the Alert Wildfire Cameras provide strong early intelligence. Launching multiple pairs of type 3 tankers or a type 1 tanker begins to fit that kind of doctrine.
I think it pays off.


The proof of concept occurred when the Erickson sky cranes were contracted in 2017 and 18. The amount of GPH they put on fires changed the game. It made a believer out of me.


for use old guys…we knew they where the cats me wow long before that


The tankers aimed for the dozers. I remember as a kid when my dad would come home with pink undershirts and mom would just throw them away. That was when dad was on the dozer in the 70s


I heard some talk of a pink dozer on the Digger fire the other day.


I totally agree with the concept of 50% in the green 50% in the black .put it out com on


Or unconfirmed reports of pilots getting 100 bucks from other HFEO’s for painting tractors. But that’s just rumors and hearsay. Lol


I would be careful making some of these statements. In some fuel models, we all know that retardant 50/50 will definitely knock the steam out of it, then follow up with the ground crews and put it to bed. In other fuel models it may or may not even penetrate the canopy. The concern I have is that people who are unfamiliar with firefighting tactics reading this assume that aircraft on their own can put fires out and we all know that is not true, they just take the steam out of the head. I think the main reason you see most of these aircraft flying early on is the EUA’s. Why pay for them and not use them?


They sent three tankers, two helicopters, dozers from FKU and SNF, and dispatched MMU for what ended up being a dust cloud from a guy running a tractor in tollhouse this afternoon. It exactly that, people think we’re paying for them why aren’t they being used, I’ve heard that said even when the smoke was as thick as fog at Fresno tanker base.

Actually seen that done quite a bit this year an example being the washburn fire

Like everything there are MANY factors that come into play. (Just like the deck gun debate on the structure side). It’s all about conditions once the birds are in the air. (Again multiple factors play into getting them that far) One example that many can recall recently. The French fire.
The week(ish) before there was a start and ECC was communicating to responding units what they saw on the cameras and appropriate air resources were ordered, pre-plans were also in place too, (Shout out to @ALERTWildfire and everyone involved in getting that whole program going) but the tankers were able to it boxed in almost textbook. Great opportunity and execution of tanker usage. In fact on the initial camera feeds for the French you could see that boxed in.
But even if there was a train of 747 supertankers in the air; like the B-52’s during the Cold War, there was no stopping that beast. Wind, moisture content, heat, wind, topography, vegetation type, drought, access issues, and more wind were just some of the conditions that were present that day which no amount of tankers could have slowed. “This thing is gone!” Is a comment which pops up in my head after the first few cams were posted. We all know how that incident ended up months later.
Long story short, my two cents on the current air tanker usage is, it’s moving in the right direction and there are plenty of example on the good side and bad side. When able and used correctly it can be textbook. When resources get stretched thin, we’ll that’s why people get paid the big bucks. To me it seems like the progress is in the right direction.


I was pleased to hear AA over the Ampine incident suggested using the 2 tankers to slow or stop the fire from going more east to 2 other piles and more structures within the compound. The drops appeared to work fairly well.

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They’ve been using type 1 tankers for IA in California since I could remember. There are type 1 tankers on calfire contracts, that sit loaded and launch on IA all the time. They get canceled just as often as S-2’s.

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Totally agree. There are people out there that think the tankers can fly 24/7, and we should be launching multiple DC10s on every smoke report. And of course, the common refrain that the fire won’t go out until the big bombers get here…

@arex yes, I know there are T1 tankers on EU contracts with Cal Fire and have for a few years now. However, that has not always been the case. Also, S2’s were the only aircrafted launched many years ago up here in NO’s. Getting multiple T1’s were usually a long eta. Also, now I’m dating myself, the S2’s were 600 gallon drops.

Good ole days

Remember having the two S-2 tankers and a C-54 (FS Contract) launching for IA from Ramona AAB during High Wildland Dispatch days.

That combination in 1990’s allowed us to hammer those IA fires quickly. Yes I’m dating myself, while now being active AD ATGS in SW Colorado.


There are many factors stated above that make a difference. Most have seen fire burning see intense no drop in the world would phase it. I been cutting brush with my crew and the drops never penetraded to the ground in thick Chamise. Other side of the story 10 acre fire in West Point the Martin Mars made a drop and that fire was History. It seems now when a fire breaks you have assets at risk right off the get go. That may justify the big boys getting lunched early or how intensely fires are burning. We have a new addition to the IA fleet in TCU besides the new C-404. The Billings Chinook and I’m happy to see it.