AFCEC achieves major milestone, transfers parcel of former base for public airport use

Taxied at former McClellan Air Force Base, the red-and-white 747 known as the "Spirit of John Muir" (left), and air tankers (right) work all day releasing cargo and fire retardant in support of the wildfires in Northern California.

Taxied at former McClellan Air Force Base, the red-and-white 747 known as the "Spirit of John Muir" (left), and air tankers (right) work all day releasing cargo and fire retardant in support of the wildfires in Northern California. These aircraft fly over 45 missions per day from McClellan and drop an average of 266,000 gallons of retardant to combat the blazes. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Scott Johnston)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Air Force Civil Engineer Center reached another major milestone with the transfer of 923 acres from former McClellan Air Force Base, California, for public airport use.
 
From sunup to sundown fire-fighting aircraft of all sizes lift off from McClellan. 

These large aircraft, one after another, make the giant loop from Sacramento to the North Bay. The mission – to help extinguish massive fires raging across Napa and Sonoma Counties. 

For the past two weeks, McClellan has been a launching pad for three DC-10s, a number of smaller aircraft, and a massive Boeing 747 supertanker capable of dropping 18,000 gallons of fire retardant in a single pass. 

Managed by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, the high-volume supertankers land at McClellan and take approximately 20 minutes to refuel and reload with retardant. 

The close proximity to the fires has allowed planes flying out of McClellan to perform up to 45 missions per day, dropping a daily average of 266,000 gallons of retardant on the blazes.

“Having access to a facility like McClellan has been a great asset,” said Lynn Tolmachoff, Chief of Public Education for Cal Fire. “The planes can make the round trip to Santa Rosa in 45 minutes, which has been a major factor in assisting firefighters on the ground.”

Each plane plays a key role in helping to ward off wildfires that have claimed the lives of at least 40 people and have left thousands of families homeless in Northern California. 

One of the former base’s anchor tenants, Cal Fire formed a reuse partnership at McClellan shortly after the base closed in 2001. The United States Coast Guard also operates an air station at McClellan, performing search, rescue, and disaster relief missions. 

“Having these anchor tenants in place so soon after the base closed really helped to solidify the redevelopment process and viability of the airfield,” said Troy Givans, Sacramento County Office of Economic Development. “These relationships have played a major role in turning McClellan into the success it is today.”

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission selected McClellan for closure in 1995. Close coordination between the AFCEC and Sacramento County along with master developer McClellan Business Park have transformed the former base into a thriving corporate campus. 

AFCEC manages the disposal of Air Force property in accordance with Base Realignment and Closure law. The goal of the Air Force base closure division is to return value to the Air Force and local communities by transferring surplus military property while ensuring the protection of human health and the environment on former military installations.

“Cal Fire was one of the first tenants at McClellan after the base closed,” said AFCEC’s McClellan Base Environmental Coordinator Steve Mayer. “And they are a great example of the base closure process at work. Both the community and the redevelopment authority have benefited greatly from them being here.” 

AFCEC and Sacramento County recently put the finishing touches on the transfer of the 923-acre airfield parcel, which includes the runway now in use by Cal Fire. 

As properties within McClellan are determined suitable for transfer, like the runway parcel, the Air Force transfers ownership by deed to McClellan Park through Sacramento County. 

To date, more than 86 percent of the former military base has been transferred to Sacramento County, McClellan Park and other entities. It is anticipated that all but 200 of the 3,458 total acres will be transferred by end of 2017.