Firefighters in the Sierra Nevada have another resource to tap for knocking down wildfires.
The U.S. Forest Service in Lake Tahoe says the agency’s Bombardier CL415 aircraft, nicknamed the "Super Scooper," will be based out of the South Lake Tahoe Airport this summer.
The nickname comes from the plane's ability to repeatedly scoop and drop large quantities of water on a fire.
Forest Service Fire Management Officer Kit Bailey says basing the firefighting aircraft in Lake Tahoe increases the agency’s ability to respond to a wildfire threatening Lake Tahoe or the surrounding region.
"Given the conditions that we're facing here in the west, with four years of drought, having this high-capable aircraft here is a big plus, not just for the Lake Tahoe Basin area but all the surrounding areas and forests," Bailey says. "Stationing the CL415 Super Scooper recognizes the consequences of a severe wildfire in the Lake Tahoe Basin."
Bailey says the plane can carry up to 1,621 gallons of water.
"In an average mission of six nautical miles distance from water to fire, it can complete nine drops within an hour and deliver 14,589 gallons of water," Bailey says. "It takes about 12 seconds to fill the CL415, which then [drops] water on the fire from a height of about 100 to 150 feet."
The Forest Service says the planes typically assist crews during the initial attack on a fire, by dropping water on the most active areas of the fire.
"As things start to wind down here as far as fire season, we'll probably end up moving the Super Scooper to Southern California in October and November when the Santa Ana winds start kicking up," says Bailey, referencing the windy condition that increases the rapid spread of wildfires.
Several incidents of hobby drones caused fire crews to stop air operations in California during the past month, endangering fire crews and their efforts to contain fires.
"Keep your drones at home when crews are fighting a wildfire," says Bailey. "When we have a drone intrusion on one of our fires, we have to shut down the air operation and that not only puts the public and property at risk, but it also puts our firefighters at risk."