Forest Service can't wait for new-era fire tankers

Posted: Jun 12, 2012

Written by

Reno Gazette-Journal

Fighting a wildfire from the air is inherently a dangerous job. The pilots who heroically perform retardant drops under very difficult circumstances and unforgiving conditions understand the risks well, and they deserve the best equipment possible to do their jobs.

However, a crash of an air tanker in Utah that killed both crewmen while fighting a fire, along with the crash-landing of another tanker at the Minden-Tahoe Airport south of Carson City, raise new questions about the ability of the aging fleet of Cold War-era planes used throughout the West to withstand the rigors of firefighting.

A group of U.S. senators earlier this year urged the U.S. Forest Service to move quickly to bring newer planes into service. The Forest Service “know[s] we need to replace them,” a spokesman for the agency said.

Now it must find a way to speed up the process, to improve its firefighting capability and also to protect the pilots who do the dangerous work.

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