California’s 22 air tankers were reactivated Friday to help fight wildfires raging across the state, three days after a deadly accident at Yosemite National Park grounded the fleet. The National Transportation Safety Board also found that there were no structural failure or aging aircraft issues that affected the twin-engine S-2T air tanker that crashed Tuesday. Pilot Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt was killed when the plane smashed into a cliff during a fire retardant drop at the Dog Rock fire in Mariposa County.
“These pilots put their lives on the line. It’s a controlled environment, but there’s also an amount of risk,” NTSB accident investigator Josh Cawthra said at a news conference.
Crews continued Friday to battle the Dog Rock fire, which has scorched more than 270 acres and is about 20 percent contained. Investigators said it’s possible that trailer safety chains dragging on pavement sparked the growing blaze. “Due to the extremely dry conditions in the park a single spark can start a wildland fire,” park officials said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a separate fire about 40 miles northeast of Sacramento has destroyed six homes and was threatening 1,000 structures around the Placer County community of Applegate. Many of the homes remained under mandatory evacuation orders.
— Erik Ortiz, with The Associated Press