See the Aircraft Battling the California Wildfires in Action

Dec 8, 2017

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Southern California is on fire. Hundreds of thousands of acres are burnt, with six fires raging uncontrollably. Just Thursday night, a new fire broke out in San Diego County. Dubbed the Lilac fire, it’s already killed more than two dozen horses and destroyed many structures.

California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, President Trump is offering the state federal assistance and firefighters from around the country are being brought in to combat the blazes.

An important element in fighting fires is what aircraft can do from the air, dropping water or fire retardant. There’s a wide variety of aircraft operating in Southern California, including the massive 747 supertanker that was used just months earlier in the Northern California fires.

We’ve rounded up some of the best pictures of helicopters, prop planes and even jets that are battling the fires.

Below, an Avro RJ85 drops retardant on homes in Murrieta. The RJ85 is a four-engined jet built in Britain, and was commonly used as a commercial passenger jet.

MURRIETA, CA - DECEMBER 7, 2017: A plane drops fire retardant near a home to stop the wind driven Liberty Fire near Los Alamos Road on December 7, 2017 in Murrieta, California.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
An Avro RJ85 drops fire retardant near a home to stop the wind-driven Liberty Fire near Los Alamos Road on December 7, 2017 in Murrieta, California.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The “Super Scooper,” more formally known as a Bombardier CL-415, drops water on the Creek Fire in Northern Los Angeles. The aircraft is a dual-engine turboprop built in Canada specifically for fire fighting. The amphibious vehicle flies low over water and can scoop up over 1,600 gallons of water without actually having to land — meaning it can quickly return to where it’s needed.

Along with its piston-powered predecessor, the CL-215, it is a common sight in the Mediterranean, where climate and vegetation similar to Southern California’s routinely cause coastal wildfires — the governments of Italy, France, Spain, Greece and Croatia all operate it in the fire-fighting role, taking advantage of its ability to scoop up seawater and drop it immediately on the flames.

SYLMAR, CA - DECEMBER 06: A super scooper drops water on Creek Fire burning along Little Tujunga in National Forest. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A Super Scooper drops water on the Creek Fire burning along Little Tujunga in National Forest. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Helicopters carry less water than fixed-wing aircraft, but they can hoover, and can go where airplanes can’t. They carry water typically in buckets suspended from the fuselage, but the chopper below has a built-in tank.

BONSALL, CA - DECEMBER 08: A helicopter makes a nighttime water drop over a burning ranch in the Lilac Fire in the early morning hours of December 8, 2017 near Bonsall, California. Strong Santa Ana winds are pushing multiple wildfires across the region, expanding across tens of thousands of acres and destroying hundreds of homes and structures. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
A helicopter makes a nighttime water drop over a burning ranch in the Lilac Fire in the early morning hours of December 8, 2017 near Bonsall, California. Strong Santa Ana winds are pushing multiple wildfires across the region, expanding across tens of thousands of acres and destroying hundreds of homes and structures. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Dual helicopters pass each other as smoke billows above Santa Paula, California. Large buckets of water hang from the underbelly of the two aircraft.

CALIFORNIA, USA - DECEMBER 6: Helicopters transport water as smoke billows from the Thomas Fire on the mountains near Santa Paula, California, United States on December 6, 2017. Multiple fires around southern California have consumed thousands of acres. (Photo by Justin L. Stewart/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Helicopters transport water as smoke billows from the Thomas Fire on the mountains near Santa Paula, California, on December 6, 2017. Multiple fires around southern California have consumed thousands of acres. (Photo by Justin L. Stewart/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A Sikorsky “Skycrane” has a built in tank that can carry over 2,600 gallons of water.

A helicopter makes a water drop over the Creek Fire in Los Angeles, California on December 5, 2017. The raging fire fueled by strong Santa Ana winds has burned more than 11,000 acres and caused the evacuation of 115,000 residents. (Photo by: Ronen Tivony) (Photo by Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A helicopter makes a water drop over the Creek Fire in Los Angeles, California on December 5, 2017. The raging fire fueled by strong Santa Ana winds has burned more than 11,000 acres and caused the evacuation of 115,000 residents. (Photo by: Ronen Tivony) (Photo by Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Grumman S-2 Tracker was formerly an anti-submarine aircraft, and its torpedo bay now stores flame retardant, remnants of which can be seen on the bottom of the fuselage as red streaks.

VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 07: Aircraft from CalFire battle the Lilac fire in Bonsall, California on December 7, 2017 in Ventura, California. A state of emergency was declared in San Diego County as the Lilac Fire threatened moe than a thousand structures. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)
Aircraft from CalFire battle the Lilac fire in Bonsall, California on December 7, 2017 in Ventura, California. A state of emergency was declared in San Diego County as the Lilac Fire threatened moe than a thousand structures. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

Featured image by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images.

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