RADAR BLIP: Victorville Airport on the high desert, Jumbo Jet in sight.
The big DC-10 airliner-turned-fire-fighter made spectacular video for all the stations, making 12,000 gallon drops on fires from Arrowhead to San Diego. But who are these guys and what's with that old jumbo jet?
Nobody answered the phones, nobody got the e-mails, so at 6 a.m. Dan and I just drove to Victorville, circled the airport, spotted the big plane behind a hangar, asked people going through the security gate to tell the DC-10 team KTLA is here to tell their story.
Fourth pick-up truck through was a grizzled old-timer named "Andy" who knew the tanker guys. Next thing we knew we were under its huge wing as the fire retardant Phoz-Chek was being pumped onboard.
John Romero of Cal Fire, a new name for the state Forestry Department's fire fighting division, said the enormous jet is "right for some things" and "not for others." For a large fire across a long front, the DC-10 is great. Pilot Kevin Hopf, confirming that the big jet's left wing had clipped the tree tops skimming maybe too low during the recent Tehachapi fire, said you have to fly cautiously, but if you're afraid, "you really shouldn't be here."
Bill Nelson of the Phoz-Chek crew said the orange-colored cool-aid-like-stuff is really a mix of water and fertilizer. It's job, smother the brush and trees, form a barrier in front of the fire, then let the ground crews "get in and do their jobs." And Brad Tuttle, president of "10 Tanker Carrier," dropped a little good news on us when he said another fire-fighting DC-10 is in the works, "a second airplane for the '08 season, hopefully."