How firefighting is coordinated from the sky.
If air-traffic controller is one of the most stressful jobs and firefighting is one of the most dangerous, then you get an idea of what it’s like to be an air tactical group supervisor. Aircraft that douse flames with water and bright red Phos-Chek fire retardant are a common sight in California. Aerial firefighting requires municipal, county, state and federal agencies to communicate as a unit on the ground and in the air. Fire Capt. David Hudson has been an air attack group supervisor for 2.5 years and is based at Hemet-Ryan Airport’s air attack base, which deploys aircraft to fires from the Pacific Ocean to the Colorado River. Hudson says, “Cal Fire has air bases strategically located so aircraft can reach a fire in 20 minutes after a call.” When above a fire, Hudson sits in the back of an OV-10 Bronco and coordinates with the ground commander on a strategy to get ahead of the fire and manage all the aircraft entering the fire zone. “The dozers and guys on the ground put the fire out. Our job is to try and get ahead of the fire and box it in,” Hudson says.