The retardant is artificially colored bright red so that during a fire Cal Fire crews know where each drop started and left off.
Cal Fire's Kevin Reed is one of more than 20 technicians, engineers, pilots and firefighters that are stationed at the Air Attack Base in Hemet, Calif.
Water pours into 10,000-gallon tanks where the retardant is mixed. So far this year the Hemet base has used 800 thousand gallons of retardant, twice the amount from last year.
Firefighters Adan Castro, left, and Anthony Pappani work in the control tower. Castro coordinates aircraft coming and going at the base.
With the push of a button from the cockpit, doors at the bottom of a S-2T air tanker open and release all 1,200 gallons of fire retardant.
Battalion Chief Travis Alexander inside a S-2T air tanker, which travels at about 300 miles per hour.
Underneath a S-2T air tanker, which holds 1,200 gallons of fire retardant. This S-2T is one of 23 former military tankers that have been converted for Cal Fire's use during wildfires.
Cal Fire Air Technician Kevin Reed demonstrates how fire retardant is put in an air tanker on Oct. 15 at the Cal Fire Air Attack Base in Hemet, Calif. – one of 12 bases of its kind in California. This S-2T air tanker holds 1,200 gallons of retardant.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
GROVELAND, CA - AUGUST 22: A DC-10 air tanker drops fire retardant on a ridge ahead of the advancing Rim Fire on August 22, 2013 in Groveland, California. The Rim Fire continues to burn out of control and threatens 2,500 homes outside of Yosemite National Park. Over 1,000 firefighters are battling the blaze that was reduced to only 2 percent containment after it nearly tripled in size overnight. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Today is the 10th anniversary of the so-called "Firestorm of 2003m" when more than a dozen wildfires raged across Southern California from Simi Valley to San Diego.
The frequency and intensity of wildfires have risen over the years, and one of the weapons used to fight those fires is that bright orange liquid dumped from planes above the flames: fire retardant.
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