SUPERVISOR DIANNE JACOB
CHAIRMAN BILL HORN
San Diego County Board of Supervisors
Contacts: Steve Schmidt, 619-206-9108; Anita Lightfoot, 619-531-5555
COUNTY CHALLENGES FOREST SERVICE’S REFUSAL TO OPERATE NEWEST AIR TANKERS OUT OF RAMONA DURING A WILDFIRE
Concerned about the approaching fall wildfire season, county supervisors on Tuesday criticized the U.S. Forest Service’s refusal to operate its newest air tankers out of Ramona Air Attack Base.
The Board of Supervisors approved a recommendation from Chairman Bill Horn and Supervisor Dianne Jacob to ask the White House to overturn the decision, a highly unusual step that they said was warranted given what’s at stake.
“We need to make it loud and clear to the federal government that these tankers could save lives and protect property come the next major wildfire,” Supervisor Jacob said. “We’re going into the most dangerous stretch of the year and it’s critical we have the latest and best tools available to protect our region.”
The Forest Service claims the Ramona base, the region’s aerial firefighting hub, is unable to safely handle the tankers, but Cal Fire tested the same type of aircraft at Ramona last week and reported no problems. County airport and fire officials also say the base can safely handle the four-engine aircraft, which can carry up to 3,000 gallons of retardant.
"We proved them wrong," said Chairman Bill Horn. "The Forest Service said it couldn't be done and we showed them that it could be done. Flying air tankers out of Ramona will mean eight additional drops during a wildfire event and that's significant."
In recent weeks, San Diego County’s Congressional delegation and the San Diego County Fire Chiefs’ Association have also weighed in, urging the Forest Service to operate the plane out of Ramona.