Local company supports firefighters from air

Aug 7, 2015 2:09 PM by Anthony Peters

With California and the rest of the Western United States in the midst of one of the worst fire seasons on record, Chico's air tanker wild fire suppression company Air Spray has been providing air support to firefighters on the ground throughout the season.

"Fires are starting almost everyday, some of them they put down right away, some of them start to grow." Air Spray general manager Ravi Saip said. "There's been a number of fires particularly in Oregon as well, you don't hear about it because we're in Oregon but Oregon has a lot of activity."

The company began in Canada in the sixties, establishing a name for itself before opening its doors in Chico after Aero Union closed up shop.

"The company founders, Don Hamilton of Air Spray and Dale Newton of Aero Union, knew each other they were friends," Saip said. "So, it was an easy decision for the corporate folks up in Canada to go ahead and use Chico.

Air spray has been active this summer, supporting firefighting efforts in Oregon and Washington with its single seat planes.

"Washington state has two or three large fires going right now, he said. "We're operating on those with one of our Fire Boss aircraft scooping water out of the lakes and rivers and hitting the fire constantly for three, three and a half hours."

With the smaller aircraft providing support this summer, Air Spray is in the middle of developing a new airframe which will be unveiled in the next couple of months.

"It's a British Aerospace 146 passenger jet, we modifed it from passenger operations, we gutted everything out and it's just a big hollow shell, we're making it into a tanker to be a very precise retardant."

But as Air Spray readies for the publicity of a new airframe, Saip says the attention of fighting fires shouldn't be on them but on the firefighters on the ground.

"The firefighters on the ground are the heroes, they're the guys putting the fires out," he said. "They're actually hacking away and we're just trying to support that effort."


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