Fighting Lake County’s Rocky Fire from the Air

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MCCLELLAN AIR FORCE BASE --

As firefighters battle the Rocky Fire in Lake County, the fight from above continues to be an important part of the fight.

Crews are using what are called "Bambi Buckets." They carry a swimming pool's worth of water and dangle beneath CH-47 Chinook helicopters flown by the Army National Guard Aviation regiment out of Stockton, California.

Without this air attack, firefighters don't have much hope of getting a handle on the Rocky Fire anytime soon.

"The return time for that particular fire  --the Rocky Fire -- is only about 15 minutes for us in this airplane," tanker Pilot Matt Ringlein said.

Ringlein loads his plane up with fuel and fire retardant, and prepares time to take off again.

Most of these planes are equipped to carry either water, or fire retardant. In this case, fire retardant is pumped in from massive sacks, one after the other.

And one after the other, planes land, load-up, and take off again. C-130s, DC-10s, spotter planes and helicopters, including the National Guard Chinook, all sharing the same airspace, all focused on the same mission.

"We're all talking to one another, and we have a traffic alert system on the aircraft that will tell us where other traffic hazards are," Ringlein said.

From sun-up to the last light of dusk, the planes run.

Monday there will be even more, and the hope is then this fire fight will start to go our way.