We have previously documented the current state of the federal air tanker fleet:
- Senators ask for GAO evaluation of USFS air tanker strategy
- USFS to pay for another air tanker study
- Will 12 air tankers be enough this year?
- CAL FIRE letter to USFS about air tanker strategy
The air tanker fleet managed by the U.S. Forest Service, NPS, BIA, BLM, and USFWS, has deteriorated over the last 10 years from 44 large air tankers on exclusive use contracts to the 11 we have today. As the climate changes, fire seasons are getting longer. Last year there were records set in Arizona and New Mexico for the largest fires in the states’ histories. In March of this year fires burning in Colorado and South Dakota competed for scarce air and ground firefighting resources. The number of unfilled orders for air tankers continues to increase. Congress regularly reduces the firefighting budgets of the land management agencies.
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