Ramona Air Attack Base ready to fly

It’s been nearly 30 years since the Ramona Air Attack Base has had to remain fully staffed throughout the entire year, even in winter. But San Diego’s ongoing drought has created the perfect conditions for a wildfire.

“If we needed information, we would come over here. We’ll find Campo on the map… ” explained Todd Daley, one of the dozen or so firefighters working at the Ramona Air Attack Base for Cal Fire.

The control tower is responsible for dispatching planes to any fires that may spark up in the area.

“On this example, with the fire earlier (Wednesday), it came from Ramona and this fire was 124 degrees by 77 miles.”

Starting April 1st, Cal Fire went to peak staffing – a very early start to fire season. In fact, a lower winter staffing measure never happened.

“We were in staffing where we had 18 of our engine companies staffed up all winter long, which is very unusual for us,” said Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser.

The ongoing drought – with high temperatures and high winds – all making that perfect recipe for a wildfire. 

“We’re constantly monitoring the weather, which is a big factor. The weather is able to give us the ability to maneuver our staffing patterns as we need to, based on the conditions that we’re dealing with day-to-day.”

That’s why the Ramona Air Attack Base is on standby; fueled up and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

“It hasn’t happened probably in the last 30 years that we’ve staffed the base year-round,” said Capt. Todd O’Carroll of the Ramona Air Attack Base. “Just because we haven’t had any rain and the potential for large fires is still there.”

O’Carroll says wind conditions can present a real challenge, not only for pilots, but targeting the fires with retardant. But when it’s safe to fly, he says the base is ready to act.

“We’re able to mix the retardant here. We hold 52,000 gallons of retardant, and we’re able to mix that and keep up with the airplanes – even if we have a large incident in the county. We have multiple airplanes coming from different areas; we can continually bring them in and load them and send them back out.”

Again, fire officials are encouraging everybody to have their emergency kits, their evacuation plans ready and practice them with their families. You can also go to readyforwildfire.org for more information. Let this be a reminder for everybody to be ready for wildfire season and a busy one. 

Categories: KUSI