The air tankers assigned to the El Dorado Fire are instrumental in aerial firefighting and slowing the spread of the fire.

A series of American wide-body jet air tankers have been in service as an aerial firefighting unit since 2006, said Rebecca Miller, public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

“The aircraft are used to fight wildfires,” she said. “The air tankers utilized the San Bernardino Air Tanker base at the San Bernardino International Airport for loading fire retardant during the El Dorado Fire and other fires in Southern California. This year, the air tankers at the San Bernardino Air Tanker base have dropped 3.5 million gallons of fire retardant on various fires in California. So far, the air tankers have dropped 277,319 gallons of fire retardant on the El Dorado Fire.”

The tankers are converted from wide body McDonnell Douglas DC-10 passenger jetliners.

“The ‘Very Large Airtanker’ (VLAT) carries 10,000 gallons of fire retardant and the large airtankers carry 501 up to 10,000 gallons of retardant,” said Miller.  “The San Bernardino Air Tanker base is equipped to support the large air tankers. The two other locations are at Fox Field in Palmdale, and Sacramento McClellan airport. The VLAT is staffed with three to five members on board the aircraft, and one parking/security manager and two loaders at the base.”

The San Bernardino Air Tanker base is set up with portable mixer tanks. Phos-Chek fire retardant is manufactured as dry powders or as concentrated liquids, with components of soap, fertilizer and diluted with water prior to use. The retardant is applied ahead of wildfires to homes by aerial firefighting units, either fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft.

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