By Marlee Ginter

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – When you see the massive 747 Global Supertanker in the sky, you know it means business. The largest tanker of its kind in the world is able to carry 19,200 gallons of water or 18,000 gallons of fire retardant on a single flight, but a spokesperson confirmed to CBS13 that the firefighting beast is now grounded.

“Well, it certainly is unfortunate. We would rather have that asset available like we have in the past,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Issac Sanchez.

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The news comes following the worst wildfire season in California’s history with the most acres ever burned at more than 4.3 million. The Supertanker was used 119 times in 2020 just in California alone. The USDA Forest Service wouldn’t answer specific questions on the matter, but sent this statement to CBS13:

“The USDA Forest Service is aware of this vendor’s decision. The Global Supertanker is currently on a Call-When-Needed (CWN) contract for aerial wildland fire suppression.”

Meantime, firefighters continue seeing more and more mega and even giga fires, like the August Lightning Complex Fire.

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“Residents should be concerned regardless of whether that resource is available or not. We are concerned,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez points out that even without the Supertanker, Cal Fire always prepares for the worst. It operates the largest fleet of wildland firefighting equipment in the world with its own helicopter fleet plus up to two dozen air tankers.

“I believe that the residents of California can take comfort in knowing that Cal Fire is prepared. The folks that fight fires alongside us are prepared and we will aggressively attack every vegetation fire the way we always have,” said Sanchez.

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Aside from the department’s hefty fleet, it also has cooperative agreements with other agencies and a strong vendor pool to pull additional resources.