Operational Units are organizations designed to address fire suppression over a geographic area.
They vary widely in size and terrain.
For example, Lassen-Modoc-Plumas Operational Unit encompasses three rural counties and consists of eight fire stations, one Helitack Base, three conservation camps and an inmate firefighter training center.
Fire suppression resources include 13 front-line fire engines, 1 helicopter, 3 bulldozers and 14 inmate fire crews.
The unit shares an interagency emergency command center with federal agencies including the US Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.
An interagency center contributes to economies of scale, supports cooperation, and lends itself to a more seamless operation.
The area has fragmented jurisdictions across a large rural area along the Nevada and Oregon state lines.
Riverside Operational Unit by itself is one of the largest fire departments in the nation, with 95 fire stations and about 230 pieces of equipment.
The Riverside Operational Unit operates the Riverside County Fire Department under contract as well operates eighteen city fire departments and one community services district fire department.
Nine of these stations belong to the state, with rest owned by the respective local government entity.
The unit operates its own emergency command center in Perris.
Terrain served includes urban and suburban areas of the Inland Empire and communities in the metropolitan Palm Springs area.
The area includes forested mountains, the Colorado River basin, the Mojave Desert and Interstate 10.
The counties of Marin, Kern, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange are paid by Cal Fire to provide fire protection to state responsibility areas within those counties rather than Cal Fire providing direct fire protection, and are commonly known as the "Contract Counties".
Lawmakers in Sacramento have mandated that every Operational Unit develop and implement an annual fire management plan.
The plan will develop cooperation and community programs to reduce damage from, and costs of, fires in California.
One metric used by fire suppression units is initial attack success: fires stopped by the initial resources, (equipment and people,) sent to the incident.
Main article: CDF Aviation Management Program
The CAL FIRE Aviation Management Program is a branch of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Due to the frequency and severity of wildfires in California, the state has elected to establish its own aerial firefighting force rather than rely solely on national resources.
The Aviation Management Program is based at McClellan Airfield near Sacramento, California.
In support of its ground forces, CAL FIRE emergency response air program includes 23 Grumman S-2T 1,200 gallon airtankers, twelve UH-1H Super Huey helicopters, and 14 OV-10A airtactical aircraft.
These aircraft are stationed at 13 air attack and ten helitack bases located statewide, and can reach most fires within 20 minutes.
During high fire activity, CAL FIRE may move aircraft to better provide statewide air support.
The airtactical planes fly overhead at a fire, directing the airtankers and helicopters to critical areas of the fire for retardant and water drops.
The retardant used to slow or retard the spread of a fire is a slurry mix consisting of a chemical salt compound, water, clay or a gum-thickening agent, and a coloring agent.
While both air tankers and helicopters are equipped to carry fire retardant or water, the helicopters can also transport firefighters, equipment and injured personnel.
The average annual budget of the CAL FIRE Aviation Management Program is nearly $20 million.
A total of 18 CAL FIRE personnel oversee the program with an additional 130 contract employees providing mechanical, pilot and management services.
So if you are interested in how to become a firefighter, keep reading throught our site to learn more about the training,the duties and the challenges that a Cal Fire firefighter faces while in the line of duty.
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