Wild fires tore through Southern California over the weekend and in Orange and Riverside counties by Sunday evening more than 10,500 acres had burned and at least 150 structures had been destroyed.
Improved weather conditions and calmer winds on Sunday allowed an armada of tankers to attack the fire with Lockheed Martin P-2 and P-3s, helicopters and a variety of smaller aircraft. Star-billing, however, went to10 Tanker Air Carrier’s converted McDonnell Douglas DC-10 which swept low over the hills and canyons dropping fire-break forming lines of reddish-orange Phos-Chek retardant.
P-2 in action
(All pictures taken off my TV courtesy of ABC Channel 7)
P-3 ready to drop
And here comes the DC-10 - an approach and drop as viewed from the ABC helicopter after returning from its Victorville, Calif. base.
The former American Airlines-operated aircraft, has been operating at a high tempo. The aircraft carries 12,000 gal. of water/retardant in a large belly-mounted cupola that can deliver a fire-break swath almost 0.75 mile. long and up to 100ft. wide. The computer-controlled gravity-fed delivery system, developed by Erickson Air-Crane, can drop the entire load in around 8 sec. at a rate of up to 1,500 gallons/sec, or can be used to perform multiple drops. While Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger likened the damage caused by the fires to Armageddon, TV commentators said the very sight of the DC-10 improved morale amongst exhausted fire fighters and residents alike. Dubbed the ‘Triangle Complex Fire’, it created a huge pall of smoke over Orange County which was also clearly visible on weather satellite images. To view a clip of the DC-10 in action during an earlier fire fighting mission see below.