By Steve Large

FORESTHILL (CBS13) – It’s an impressive sight in any firefight, a DC-10 Supertanker swooping in and seemingly saving the day.

However, at the Placer County Robbers Fire, Cal Fire made no request to use the DC-10 until day four. The supertanker was on the sidelines, and by then, more than 1,500 acres had burned and one home had been destroyed.

Firefighters were using more nimble types of aircrafts.

“Because you’re in front of the wings you’ve got great visibility, left or right,” said Cal Fire Assistant Deputy Director John Winder.

Winder says the call for the DC-10 was not made too late.

“Well I think it’s probably people don’t understand the right tool for the right job where it just wasn’t a good place to put the DC-10,” said Winder.

As the fire spread, Cal Fire eventually called the DC-10 in to build a giant fire line of retardant that hand crews could not reach.

“They had a plan to put in a large amount of contingency line,” said Winder.

The supertanker can release 12,000 gallons of retardant in one drop. That is compared to Cal Fire’s S-2 planes that hold 1,000 gallons.

“So one drop from that DC-10 equals 10 of the smaller air tankers,” said Winder.

A private company owns the plane.

California pays a whopping $19,000 an hour to operate it on top of a $50,000 daily fee.

“Yeah it’s easy to say why don’t they use it from the get-go, but until you’re out there flying in those canyons and can see the terrain,” said Winder.

Some days it’s the right price, others it’s not.

Cal Fire had a $7 million annual contract with the company that owns the DC-10, but that contract was dropped in 2011 during state budget cuts.


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