Santa Maria Airport sending tankers to fight Thomas Fire

DC-10 among jets dropping retardant

Santa Maria Airport sending air tankers to fighting Thomas Fire

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The aerial attack on the Thomas Fire burning out of control in Ventura County is getting some heavy duty reinforcements from the Santa Maria Airport.

The Santa Maria Air Attack Base is now sending a DC 10 jet along with other large jet tankers carrying massive amounts of fire retardant to help the firefighters on the ground.

"We can lay a long retardant line, put out about 11,600 gallons of retardant", said DC-10 pilot Dan Montelli at the Santa Maria Air Attack Base, "what we normally do is put it on the flanks or the head of the fire to kind of slow it up so the firefighters can get in and put the fire out."

The 40 minute roundtrip for the air tankers from the fire zone in Ventura County to the Santa Maria Airport to refuel and reload retardant means a significant shift in the aerial attack on the Thomas Fire.

"Yesterday they had a hard time getting into the fire because of turbulence", said Jim Kunkle with the Central Coast Jet Center at the Santa Maria Airport, "today they have an opportunity to work the fire, we had two MD-80 7's come in, the DC-10, and I believe you saw an S-2 from CalFire come through."

The Central Coast Jet Center leases space to the U.S. Forest Service and CalFire to operate firefighting aircraft from the Air Attack Base at the airport.

"It's something that needs to be developed here in Santa Maria", Kunkle said, "it's really matured into a great base that can handle all their different air tankers frm the S-2's up to handling the DC-10 which is fantastic."

The air tanker drops on the Thomas Fire from the Santa Maria Air Attack Base are expected to resume at daylight and continue around the clock until further notice.

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