CalFire's Air Attack station at the Chico Airport is used to busy days in the height of the fire season, but the steady line of planes and helicopters is an unusual sight on in early May. Thursday, 11 planes and helicopters were stopping in throughout the day for more fuel and fire retardant. One firefighter says he hasn't seen the station this busy since the series of Lightning Complex fires that tore through Butte County in 2008. He says people should always prepare for a busy fire season, but they don't usually have to battle wildfires in the higher elevations so early.
Firefighters say they're extremely surprised by the fire behavior of the Panther Fire. High winds have contributed to it's rapid spread. They say the blaze grew by more than 500% Thursday. By the time the sun fell, it had grown to 10,000 acres and was only 10% contained. There are more than 1,000 fire personnel fighting the Panther Fire, which is burning in the Ishi Wilderness Area. No structures have been damaged, and no roads have been closed.