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CAL FIRE Bolsters Firefighting Aircraft Fleet with 24 Additional Units

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Sonora, CA– CAL FIRE is ramping up its firefighting capabilities across the state with the acquisition of 24 additional firefighting aircraft, thanks to a funding injection of over $72 million provided by Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration. This investment allows CAL FIRE to strengthen its statewide response efforts against wildfires in California. The fleet expansion includes 19 helicopters and 5 airplanes, which will be contracted for a period of 90-120 days.

Among the newly acquired aircraft are 3 large air tankers specially designed to carry up to 4,000 gallons of retardant. These aircraft have been strategically stationed in communities throughout California, ready to be deployed to areas facing potential fire activity.

“This deployment of more aircraft dedicated to the people of California marks a historic milestone, with the highest number of firefighting aircraft available for initial attack in the state for the second consecutive year,” announced Director and Fire Chief Joe Tyler. Chief Tyler emphasized that “the significant rainfall California experienced this winter has led to a substantial increase in highly flammable fuels, which contribute to the rapid escalation of fires.” CAL FIRE responded to over 300 wildfires just last week, as temperatures continued to rise across the state.

The prepositioned aircraft are stationed in various counties including Butte, Tuolumne, San Diego, Tulare, Humboldt, Mariposa, Nevada, Siskiyou, Sacramento, Fresno, Shasta, San Luis Obispo, Napa, Placer, Lassen, Riverside, and Sonoma.

With a history dating back to 1970, CAL FIRE’s aviation program has evolved into the largest civil aerial firefighting fleet globally, boasting over 60 fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. This aviation program combats wildfires in California by dropping water and fire retardant on thousands of incidents each year. Amidst these efforts, CAL FIRE urges the public to refrain from operating drones over areas with ongoing fire activity.