SuperTanker Helps Fight Southern California Wildfires

MCCLELLAN PARK -- Southern  California needs all the help it can get and a huge help is on its way.

Since its creation in 2016, the Global SuperTanker is has helped suppress major fires all around the world.

Its last mission was just this past October during the  NorCal fires.

Cal OES is working with several other agencies to mobilize even more mutual aid strike teams.

As the wildfires burning in Southern California continue to grow - the Governor's Office of Emergency Services enlisted the help of the Global SuperTanker -- a former passenger plane -- now the world's largest firefighting aircraft.

The Boeing 747 can carry 19,200 gallons of retardant, all of which will be used to fight the fires in Southern California.

"We have a split system. We have a right and a left side. So we can actually do 9,600 gallons of one product and 9,600 of another product," said Marcos Valdez, Global SuperTanker pilot.

The 11 member crew has had their bags packed, and have been on standby at McClellan Airfield since Wednesday. They were finally able to head down Thursday afternoon.

"The limitations are not on the aircraft. It's really on the retardant. If it gets really windy, the retardant can't lay down the line that it needs to lay to help those fire fighters on the ground. And if you're dropping the product and it's not effective, then it doesn't make sense to fly," Valdez said.

But once they're up, it only takes the SuperTanker 37 minutes to get to the front lines in Southern California. 15 minutes to strategically release the retardant, and it's a U-turn back to Mcclellan. A continual process, perfectly in tandem with the ground crews and the rest of the Cal Fire flight arsenal, until the mission is complete.

"We're a tool to help them slow that fire down. We give them a barrier and a place where they can actually extinguish the fire but they are the ones doing it. That's the real heroes. Those fire fighters," Valdez said.

The SuperTanker left McClellan on Thursday afternoon headed for the Liberty Fire in Riverside County.