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Cal Fire assisting in battle against Willow Fire with air support

willow fire cal fire aircrafts
KION 2021
CAL FIRE assists with Willow Fire in Monterey County.

HOLLISTER, Calif. (KION) For fire crews, winds are causing concern going into the weekend after a full day of fighting the Willow Fire on Thursday in South Monterey County.

"The weather is cooling down, but the winds are going to remain five to ten miles an hour in the area," said Captain Curtis Rhodes of Cal Fire.

The Willow Fire, burning in the Los Padres National Forest west of Greenfield, is zero percent contained, with at least about 2,000 acres burned. The fire is burning right in the middle of the forest, so the terrain is extremely hard to get through on foot for hand crews.

While the U.S. Forest Service is still in charge of the firefighting effort, Cal Fire sent automatic aid Thursday night when the fire started around 10 p.m. Cal Fire is relying on almost a dozen aircraft or so to get a handle on the fire's forward progress.

The Grumman S-2 Tracker was first used by the United States Navy for anti-submarine warfare, but Cal Fire now uses them every year to drop up to 1,200 gallons of fire retardant onto hills and valleys across the state.

There are three of these aircraft at the Hollister Airport, which Cal Fire uses as an Air Attack Base. It takes just 15 minutes for them to get to the Willow Fire miles away.

"The aircraft has been very crucial in trying to direct the head of the fire and stop the forward progress," said Capt. Rhodes.

There are about a dozen or so Cal Fire aircraft battling the Willow Fire from different locations. Some of these pilots have been at it since 8 a.m. Thursday morning, flying multiple runs to and fro for seven hours straight. It is an effort of the entire staff at the Air Attack Base.

"Not only are they supporting the Willow incident, but they have been supporting five to six other state incidents as well with units that border San Benito-Monterey," said Capt. Rhodes.

The pilots kept going until 7:57 p.m. That's the cutoff point for Cal Fire flying air support. Air power is surely playing an important role into the weekend.

"We were unable to get ground resources in due to the limited access and the fuels in the area. It was burning in heavy brush and Oak woodland," said Capt. Rhodes.

Cal Fire says the Willow Fire is now burning south to southwest into the wilderness.

PREVIOUS ARTICLE: Cal Fire is assisting in the fight against the Willow Fire with multiple aircrafts. 

Cal Fire officials say the terrain is hard to traverse, which makes planes and helicopters integral to the fight. 

KION’s Josh Kristianto will have more tonight at 10 and 11. 

Monterey County / News / San Benito County / Video
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Josh Kristianto

Josh Kristianto is a weekend anchor and multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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