Cal Fire boosts staffing during red flag warning

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RAMONA, Calif. – A hundred extra crew members are on stand-by to fight and protect San DIego County during this red flag warning.

The Ramona Air Attack Base flight crews are ready to go at a moment's notice with air tankers fully fueled and loaded.

FOX 5 had a behind-the-scenes look at what Cal Fire is doing at its oldest and one of its busiest air attack bases Sunday.

It is a waiting game for firefighters as they listen for the call, but once it comes in they jump into action with no hesitation.

“Initially, when the call first comes across it’s pretty hectic in here,” Dustin Depaola, Cal Fire air tanker base manager, said.

In the control tower, Depaola is one of the members who works to get the air tankers on top of any fire.  Control tower operators make sure pilots are on the right frequency and know exactly where they are going.

Meanwhile, flight crews get ready for takeoff. Fire Captain Todd O'Carroll knows he has got a big job to do every time he steps in the plane.

“I coordinate the aircraft over the incident. Come up with a plan,” O’Carroll told FOX 5.

Within three to five minutes of being dispatched the spotter plane, O'Caroll is in and the tankers are up in the air.

“We can get to most any place in the county within 10 to 15 minutes,” O’Carroll said.

Once he is over the fire, O'Carroll assess the situation. Then, he delivers his best plan for attacking the flames.

“I have the best view of the fire,” O’Caroll said. “What I have to do is relay a lot of information. Then, I come up with a tactical plan with the ground personnel -- what I think is going to work and what they can do on the ground to contain the fire."

He is also the one who tells tanker pilots how much fire retardant to drop and exactly where to lay it down.

Those at the Romana Air Attack Base say so far this year they have dropped more than 317,000 gallons.

Without the air attack base and the 12 others in California, fire officials say there is no doubt that many fires we have seen would have been even more devastating.

Cal Fire wanted to add that in recent years drones have become a big issue.

If a plane spots a drone then all operations have to be suspended until it is located, and that prevents firefighters from saving homes and saving lives.

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