San Marcos

The air tanker pilot grounded in connection with a low-altitude airdrop that resulted in several injuries and extensive property damage in San Marcos, will be allowed to resume his flight duties pending the completion of the California Department of Forestry’s final investigation.

Chris Cagle, an air tanker pilot at the Ramona Air Attack Base, was grounded Aug. 31 after authorities questioned the altitude at which he dropped 2,000 gallons of fire retardant over a San Marcos brush fire.

Five firefighters on the ground were injured and several engines were damaged as the falling retardant scattered rocks and debris, authorities said.

After a four-day preliminary investigation, forestry officials re-authorized Cagle’s flying license based on his 11 years of experience in flying air tankers with no previous violations, said Dave Driscol, California Department of Forestry Chief air officer for Southern California.


“Last Saturday’s accident appears to be an isolated incident,” Driscol said.

Cagle’s reauthorization is still temporary pending the completion of a final investigation and subsequent approval from the chief air officer for the state based in Sacramento.