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Jun 3, 2014 11:40 AM by Marin Austin - KTXL TV

CA drought makes overhead wildfire drops difficult

SACRAMENTO, CA - Where there's smoke, there's usually firefighters, but before water is used on the scene of a fire, it gets transported from somewhere else.

"From anywhere there's water" Barry Lloyd, manager of the Cal Fire state helicopter program, told FOX40. And right now, Lloyd is very concerned.

As one of just a few Cal Fire pilots in the state who flies over lakes, ponds and other water sources during a fire, he's noticed a potential problem.

"This drought is going to have a huge affect on us," he said.

In order to fill the "bambi bucket" that dangles from his aircraft, water needs to be at a certain level.

If the water levels aren't high enough, the 170 pound bucket cannot fully fill up, which means Cal Fire will have to keep searching for water during the crucial moments of a fire.

"Minutes are everything in our world, being able to get to a water source quickly and put out the fire" Cal Fire spokesperson Daniel Berlant told FOX40 Monday.

Another option is a tank that dangles from the helicopter, sucking water up through a pipe, but it's not nearly as economical,costing about $125,000.

At $14,000, the "bambi bucket" allows Cal Fire to purchase several for counties across the state.

"I am hoping it rains more next year because, if we have another drought next year, it's going to be catastrophic," Lloyd told FOX40.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation confirmed Monday that he deepest point of Folsom Lake as of June 2 is about 422 feet.

Lloyd tells FOX40 his main concerns are the smaller ponds and lakes, many of which could pose as a major problem for firefighting in the future as the water levels continue to drop.

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