Recent reports by the Washington Post and other news sources have raised concerns about the U.S. Forest Service’s aging fleet of air tankers. Over the past eight years, the nation’s firefighting fleet has dwindled from 44 to just 11 air tankers. The fleet has shrunk considerably as tankers are retired due to airworthiness concerns. At least three air tankers have crashed since 2002.
The shrinking fleet may also undermine interagency agreements between the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). The Forest Service and Cal Fire share resources in battling fires on both state and federal lands, and Cal Fire is concerned that California will be left vulnerable to fires if the fleet is being used to fight fires in other regions. The Forest Service has assured Cal Fire’s director that is has no intention of leaving California vulnerable to fires. The Forest Service can call on other resources, including the Air National Guard and the Pentagon, if necessary.
For more information about the effects of the aging air fleet, please follow the links below.
Wildfires: Tanker shortage could strain resources, interagency cooperation, The Press-Enterprise
As wildfire season nears, the aging fleet of air tankers raises concerns, Washington Post