CAL FIRE prepares for wildfire season in Butte County

Fire season is just getting started and firefighters are on the alert to keep people in the North State safe.

Posted: Jun 18, 2019 5:51 PM

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - Fire season is just getting started and firefighters are on the alert to keep people in the North State safe.

Fire crews are currently at the Chico Airport preparing for the season. 

Shem Hawkins, battalion chief at the air attack base in Chico, emphasized the importance of being prepared for the wildfires.

"The Camp Fire was an anomaly," Hawkins said. "It was one of those fires that you don't see very often and unfortunately had a destructive impact on the community."

Hawkins said they are getting a new helicopter to help protect the people of the North State. He said their helicopters now carry about 324 gallons of water, but the newest helicopter, the Black Hawk, will be able to carry 1,000 gallons of water. 

"We are going to be able to quadruple the amount of water that we're carrying over the top of the fire," Hawkins said. 

The new Black Hawk will be able to go out at night as well, something firefighters were not able to do before. 

"At night what we see in the past is an increase in humidity [and] decrease in temperatures," Hawkins said. "A lot of the benefits we're able to provide during the daytime for those ground troops are realized at night just from the natural occurrence of the sun going down but now we're going to be able to compound that."

In a few years, Hawkins said the firefighters are getting seven brand new C-130 aircraft. 

"That'll be a huge impact for the citizens of California because currently, our air tankers carry about 1,000 gallons of retardant to 1,200 gallons of retardant, but those planes will be able to carry up to 4,000 gallons of retardant," he said. 

Hawkins said the damage done by the Camp Fire is burned in his memory. 

"I dont think that there's anything we could have done to have averted that catastrophe but certainly it weighs heavy on my mind because I grew up in Paradise," he said. "I knew that community." 

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