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Air Tankers Playing Big Role In Battling NorCal Wildfires

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Cal Fire crews have been consumed by fighting wildfires over the past two days. They're fighting seven major fires around Northern California, the largest in Lake County, with more than seven thousand acres burned by Sunday night.

Cal Fire's air tankers are playing a big role battling the flames.

The tankers are flying from Sacramento McClellan Airport, one of two air tanker bases in Northern California.

"We've got five aircraft coming and going out of this base right now, and they are rotating constantly," says Cal Fire Spokeswoman Lynn Tolmachoff.

Massive air tankers flew into and out of Sacramento McClellan Airport battling the Pawnee Fire in Lake County.

"It's a huge fire, and numerous homes have been destroyed," Tolmachoff added.

Thee tankers hold more than 3,000 gallons of flame retardant and can spray enough to cover an entire mile.

"When they come in, they land, they load up and they are back out again within 10 to 15 minutes," Tolmachoff said.

It's a routine air tanker pilots repeat for about 12 hours.

Fierce winds and scorching temperatures fanned the Pawnee Fire on Saturday.

Cal Fire crews say it's now gone out of control.

"One of the biggest tools they use is the retardant that these aircraft carry that helps slow down the progress of that fire, and if need be, evacuate somebody," Tolmachoff said.

She adds air tankers have an advantage over crews on the ground.

Tankers can attack fires burning in remote, and geographically dense areas. It's a fiery beginning to a long summer season, as these tankers prepare to take off.

The aircraft will fly back out again Monday morning at 8 a.m.

Cal Fire says it's too early in the season to be fighting this many major fires, and that this could be a bad sign for what's in store this fire season.

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