June 17, 2012

Journalists Discover How Few Air Tankers There Are

Today's Denver Post might have been mistaken for "Wildfire News," with the High Park Fire west of Fort Collins having reached the status of Colorado's third-largest ever.

And the mainstream media have discovered the gradual shrinking of the nation's firefighting air tanker fleet, which Bill Gabbert at Wildfire Today has been blogging about obsessively. 

At least the Post quoted him.

Another irony is that Air National Guard C-130s with retardant-dropping capabilities sit on the runways unused, thanks to rules that restrict their use in favor of private contractors.
Still, the eight Air National Guard C-130 cargo planes fitted to drop slurry sit in Wyoming, Colorado, California and North Carolina. The Forest Service says it may request the eight planes only when all private tanker planes already are fighting fires or are unavailable for use. The C-130 crews insist they're ready to roll on 48 hours' notice.
So we have to wait until all the private planes are in use and there is a complete firefighting crisis before the Air Guard can be called up. Ah, bureaucracy.

As Gabbert  has written repeatedly, there are fewer private tankers available than there were in 2000, and some are nearly sixty years old. The Forest Service has produced lots of studies about the problem, however.

No comments: