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San Diego gets ‘Fire Boss’ air tanker to fight wildfires

SAN DIEGO – San Diego will begin testing a new weapon in the annual battle against summer wildfires.

The AT-802F "Fire Boss" is a small air tanker designed to fight fires. It can carry up to 800 gallons of water and fly for three hours on one fueling. The single-engine, fixed-wing can  take off and land on water. It can also quickly take on a new payload of water by scooping it from a lake or reservoir on the fly. It can scoop 650 gallons of water in 20 seconds, drop the water on a fire and fly back to scoop another load of water.

The plane has computer systems to control scooping and water drops and it has thermal imaging equipment to target fire hot spots and improve drop accuracy.

"This aircraft is a valuable tool for us to test here in San Diego,'' said San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Chief Brian Fennessy. "The capabilities of the Fire Boss are a good match for the terrain of our wildland urban interface and, while these areas are beautiful, they are hazardous when it comes to fire potential.''

Aero Spray Inc. of Appleton, Minnesota, operates the plane and is lending it to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department at no cost through the end of July.