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Supertanker Loads Retardant In San Bernadino To Fight Crown Fire

Gov. Schwarzenegger (R-CA) said Friday “We are deploying everything that we’ve got” to knock down a huge wildfire burning north of Los Angeles.

The Crown Fire in Palmdale started Thursday afternoon and has burned more than 13,000 acres and is just 20 percent contained.

Some 2,000 homes are threatened and 300 have already been evacuated.

Firefighters received some help from a B-747 firefighting supertanker, which was called to drop thousands of gallons of fire retardant on the flames.

It was used for the first time on Friday, and it will be filling up and taking off from the San Bernradino National Airtanker Base until Cal Fire doesn’t need it anymore.

Spectators called the airtanker a spectacle.

Flames were everywhere as the Evergreen B-747 Firefighting Supertanker hovered over the Crown Fire, dumping fire retardant to slow the spread of the wildfire.

“It’s taking 19,000 gallons on the loads,” said Leslie Casavan, manager of the San Bernardino National Forest Airtanker Base.

The flight from the Crown Fire back to the San Bernardino International Airport takes 20 minutes.

Crowds of people watched on from beyond the fence as the airtanker settled onto the tarmac.

“It’s huge,” said Oddis Lewis, a Highland resident.”I”ve never seen anything that big before.”

“I thought it looked like a big bird coming down and landing on a lake or something,” said Nick Battelo, 12, from Redlands.

Ground crews worked quickly to re-fuel the aircraft, getting it back to the fire as soon as possible.

However, on Friday, the airtanker made only one trip to Los Angeles County.

“They can only drop 30 minutes after sunset,” said Casavan. “They’ll start again in the morning if requested.”

Its the largest airtanker ever to fly out of the San Bernardino National Forest Airtanker Base.

The seats found in a typical 747 were stripped out and replaced with the tanks holding the retardant.

“Basically, you just walk and go up to the cockpit and it’s fairly small up there,” said Casavan.

Lewis was in Redlands when he saw the aircraft approaching the airport.

“I’m like, it’s lost,” he said. “Normally, large aircraft like this don’t fly in this space like this.”

Vince Battelo brought his two sons to check the plane out.

“This was just really cool for them,” he said.

“It’s helping the fire fighters out there,” said Nick Battelo. “Goodluck to them”

The airtanker is contracted out by Cal Fire.

It’s usually based in Arizona. But it will remain in San Bernardino for as long as Cal Fire needs it.

KESQ News Team

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