HEMET, Calif. – The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protections’ Hemet-Ryan Air Attack base is one of 19 tanker bases located throughout the state, providing initial attack fire support for an area of over 17,000 miles.
Crews here are a close-knit group of firefighters and support staff, including pilot Mike Venable, a 40-year veteran who comes from a family of flyers.
“My grandfather started a crop dusting business in the 40’s,” said Venable about one of the airport runways. “That crop dusting business grew into a firefighting air tanker business and we used to operate large PBY’s, DC 4’s, C-130s.”
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