Weather grounds air tankers helping in NorCal firefight

SACRAMENTO – Rain is normally a welcome sight on the fire lines, but when wind and lightning are added to the equation, the storms are suddenly not as welcome.

The weather is always a wildcard at a forest fire, and News10 meteorologist Rob Carlmark said Tuesday's storm dealt crews a bad hand.

"They're in a situation where they have enough instability to get a thunderstorm to form without a whole lot of rain," Carlmark said. "So they get dry lightning and gusty winds and that is a bad combination for new fire starts."

Several large air tankers, including the DC-10 Very Large Airtanker (VLAT), are sitting on the tarmac at McClellan Field. The massive planes help crews reinforce fire lines, intended to slow the spread of a fire.

The weather helped keep smoke close to the ground, preventing the air tankers from flying to the fire, leaving the bulk of the work to the crews on the front lines.

Rain and higher humidity causes the fire to burn less intensely, according to Cal Fire spokesperson Lynne Tolmachoff.

"That's why they're really going to focus on getting the containment lines in and reinforced and completely around the fire before those weather conditions come back [Wednesday]," Tolmachoff said.

The tankers will be back on the attack once the weather clears, just as they have been doing for months.

Fire officials said what has turned out to be a long and explosive fire season threatens to stick around into the foreseeable future.

"We need to actually get into a full rainy season before it will make any change and any differences," Tolmachoff said. "But, we just have to enjoy this little break that we have."


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