California’s Air Tanker Fleet Grounded After Pilot Fighting Dog Rock Fire in Yosemite Dies in Crash

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All of California’s 22 S-2T air tankers have been grounded after one of the aircraft crashed while fighting a wildfire in Yosemite National Park, killing the sole pilot.

A photo posted on Yosemite National Park Facebook page shows the Dog Rock Fire, where an air tanker lost contact with fire officials on Oct. 7, 2014.

A photo posted on Yosemite National Park Facebook page shows the Dog Rock Fire, where an air tanker lost contact with fire officials on Oct. 7, 2014.

Most of the tankers haven’t been in use recently, as the large wildfires that raced across the central and northern parts of the state this summer have largely been brought under control. But the fleet will remain grounded until deemed safe by officials, Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said Wednesday.

California is one of a handful of states to maintain a fleet of firefighting planes. The S-2T tankers, which can carry up to 1,200 gallons of retardant, are essentially old Navy aircraft that were retrofitted “from nose to tail,” including with turbine prop engines that were added in the 1990s, he said.

The tanker that crashed Tuesday was among a handful of aircraft fighting the 130-acre Dog Rock fire, which broke out that afternoon on El Portal Road between the Yosemite’s boundary and the Arch Rock entrance station, officials said.

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