Wednesday , July 24 2024
Firefighting Aircraft Return to San Bernardino International Airport

Firefighting Aircraft Return to San Bernardino International Airport

San Bernardino International Airport (SBD) will host the United States Forest Service’s Airtankers for the 24th year.  In addition to the US Forest Service, SBD also serves multiple agencies during fire season including the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and contract operators.

Wildfire activity has increased significantly in recent years and could continue to worsen, according to CAL FIRE. Fighting these blazes takes a cooperative effort, and peak operations will bring an increase in specialized aircraft and firefighters to San Bernardino, which provides a central location.

CAL FIRE recently reported an increase of 700 fires in 2021 over 2020, and 103,000 more acres burned this year.  In the past, fire season in Southern California was May to October, with some of the worst fires fanned by the hot, dry Santa Ana Wind season in late Summer to Fall.  According to some experts, California fire season has now changed to a year-round fire threat.

“Fighting the intense fires of recent years requires aircraft capable of delivering massive loads of water and fire retardant,” says Mark Gibbs, the Airport’s Director of Aviation. “During times of heightened fire activity, you may see a wide range of aircraft at SBD, including Very Large Airtankers carrying up to 12,000 gallons and firefighting helicopters which deliver up to 2,500 gallons with precision.”

San Bernardino local Mountain Communities have always been vulnerable to wildfires, particularly in the foothill areas.  The location of so many air firefighting resources is another local benefit of the renovated San Bernardino International Airport for residents.

The Airtanker Base encourages the public to come see the large, firefighting aircraft in action. A viewing area with bleachers is open each year during fire season, typically from May 29 to November 3.  It is not unusual for several hundred people to gather outdoors at the facility to watch the airtankers as they load retardant and return to fight wildfires. (Access to the viewing area may vary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Directions to the public viewing area: From the intersection of Tippecanoe Avenue and 3rd Street in San Bernardino, head east on 3rd Street, turn south (right) onto Leland Norton Way. Make a quick left and you will be on Perimeter Road. Go about 3/4 mile and enter the open gate. Address: 2065 E. Perimeter Road, San Bernardino, CA 92408.

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