Residents of Ramona are familiar with the challenges of living on the edge of the wilderness, including the ever present danger of wild fires in the dry season. With severe drought conditions in California, it seems like the dry season has expanded, making fire a year-round danger. If you are a new resident, please keep up with your weed abatement. It is a courtesy to your neighbors and a vital piece of your property protection plan in wild-fire country.
Thankfully, Ramona’s Airport is home to the California Department of Forestry (CDF) Air Attack Base. On the western edge of the Ramona Airport, the Ramona Air Attack base was initiated in 1957 which makes it the oldest Air Attack Base in the CDF system. Now it is jointly operated by the CDF and US Department of Forestry.
This base is the first line of defense for ALL wildfires in San Diego County. Between the CDF and US Forestry jurisdiction, the base is responsible for protecting over 1.4 million acres for CDF, 300,000 for the US Forest Service, basically, all of San Diego County.
The base houses two S-2T air tankers, an OV-10 Bronco, a U.S. Forest Service helicopter, five Cal Fire employees, three pilots, two fire-retardant loaders and a mechanic. However, during a big fire, additional aircraft will operate from the base, called in from Hemet, San Bernardino or even military craft at times.
Ramona’s peak output is over 150,000 gallons of retardant per day. However, on the average, it pumps out 850,000 gallons of retardant per year. In 2003, during the Cedar Fires (the worst in California’s history) CDF is quoted as saying,
“The Ramona Air Attack Base sent out an airtanker every 30 seconds for a total of 215 flights to the fires on the first day, all of which were flown by CDF S-2Ts and S-2As. Over a three-day period, 560 flights were made out of Ramona with 10 CDF airtankers and two US Forest Service DC4 airtankers”
In 2008, the Witch Creek Fires beset Ramona with what was probably the second worst wildfire in California history, certainly in San Diego’s history. Again, the Ramona Air Attack base was the hero of the story. It was during these fires that this video of pilots landing a tanker and a spotter. Air thick with smoke that diffuses a sunset in a dramatic and beautifully foreboding way, this video brings back some pretty potent memories.
With all gratitude to the CDF and the pilots of the Ramona Air Attack Base, it pays to be smart. Residents of Ramona are urged to clear their property of dry brush and weeds. Weed abatement may be the single most important property-saving measure that a property-owner can take. CDF recommends 100 feet of defensible space around every building and outbuilding on your property:
Read these tips from CDF on how to prepare evacuation and fire emergency plans.
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