At 7 a.m. on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 24, the Cloverdale Municipal Airport was bustling.
Aircraft from around the country headed to the airport to help provide aerial assistance to those fighting the Kincade Fire on the ground.
“There was CalFire aircraft, as well as contractor aircraft that flew in from all over the country,” Cloverdale Municipal Airport Manager Michael Morrissey said, recounting the first few days of the Kincade Fire. “Each of the aircraft has their own crew, they bring their own fuel and then some of them have maintenance people that they bring with them. They pretty much outlined a grid on the airport, where each of the aircraft was going to occupy a space.”
Morrissey said that at any given moment, there were 20 to 28 CalFire and contract aircraft were at the airport. Aircraft would be sent out in the morning, and came back before the sun set.
CalFire used the airport as both a landing pad for helicopters and as an operational base, creating a makeshift control tower on the grounds.
“They actually were controlling the approach and dispatch of helicopters on the field — just like a tower,” Morrissey said.
He said that many of the pilots stayed at hotels in town, and were fed at the airport by nonprofit World Central Kitchen and Guy Fieri. Prior to the start of World Central Kitchen delivering food on Monday, Oct. 28, community members made and delivered food for the crews.
Morrissey said that this has been the first event of its size in terms of CalFire using the airport. In the past, they’ve flitted in and out as necessary but never stationed there for a prolonged period.
“I want to show that (the airport) is a vital part of our community,” Morrissey said. “It was an honor for us to be available for such a big operation.”
Most of the crews made their way out of the airport on Nov. 3, and final cleanup of the area was set to occur on Nov. 5.