California is spending millions to help bring more firefighting aircraft to the state this summer. It's an effort to get more retardant on fires in the first hours of the blaze.
There are some new men at work this summer fire season. They've come from a land down under to help battle California wildfires.
"We're not sure what the season's going to bring us," said Jonathan Young, an air tanker maintenance engineer.
Young is one of the Australians that are now in Sacramento using this 737 air tanker on loan from the New South Wales government.
"It holds 4,000 gallons," Young said of the tanker's water-carrying capacity.
The Aussies are currently operating out of Cal Fire's McClellan Air Tanker Base in Sacramento.
"We are lucky to leave our Australian winter to come to the California summer," Young said.
The plane has already been used in several incidents this summer, including the Gann Fire in Calaveras County.
American Rob Minter is the chief pilot.
"Our job is to support the guys on the ground," he said. "They're the ones doing the hard work."
The Aussie 737 is one of 24 new aircraft that Cal Fire is adding this summer, spending an extra $72 million to boost the state's firefighting fleet.
"They're already in position and trained up," said Capt. Ezra Johnson with Cal Fire.
Australia's air tanker can drop nearly four times more retardant than Cal Fire's S-2 aircraft.
"We can lay out long retardant lines, or we can lay out short heavy retardant lines depending on the terrain," Young said.
"The retardant that comes out of these aircraft will help us slow the rapid spread of fires," Johnson said.
This particular airplane was once used by Southwest Airlines here in the States.
"Many people who have visited it said they've possibly flown on it at some point," Young said.
It's new help from the other side of the planet to protect California from potentially devastating wildfires.
"Hopefully they're not bad this year, but you never know until the end of the season," Minter said.
The Australian flight crew will be in California for at least three months before they head back to the outback.
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