Evergreen’s 747 Supertanker is en route to Mexico to help suppress five fires that are burning in the state of Coahuila, which shares a border with Texas. The aircraft departed Pinal Air Park near Tucson this afternoon and arrived at Lackland Air Force base near San Antonio, Texas at 5:21 MT today.
Steve Daniels of Evergreen told Wildfire Today that he expects the 747 to make its first drops later today. Lackland is about 140 miles from the fires, 15-20 minutes in a 747, so the Supertanker will be based at Lackland and will be reloading retardant there also. The Supertanker cruises at 500-550 knots (575 to 632 mph), which will mean the ship can do turn-arounds in about an hour, that is, depart Lackland, travel to the fires, drop, return, and reload. Evergreen has arranged for ICL Performance Products to have four to five trucks waiting at Lackland with tanks of already-mixed retardant.
Daniels said the Supertanker will be working through Conafor, the Comisión Nacional Forestal.
As far as we are aware, the last time the 747 was used on a fire was in December, 2010, when it made several drops on a wildfire in Israel.
Below is more information about the fires in Mexico, from the Latin American Herald Tribune:
Mexico Seeks Help from U.S, Canada to Battle Forest Fires
MEXICO CITY – Mexico requested the help of Canada and the United States to try and put out the fire that has already burned more than 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres) of brush and forest in the northern state of Coahuila, Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada said Monday.
“Never in contemporary history, have we (had) a fire that extends over practically 70 percent of the territory of the country’s fires. We’ve never had that,” he said in an interview with Efe.
He explained that the area affected by the blaze “is not solid forest” but rather “ecosystems that have lived for thousands of years with the presence of electrical storms,” like the one that started this fire.
The area is comprised of “environmental management units for the conservation of forest life” where there are bears, abundant deer, wild pigs and assorted wild birds.
The fire broke out on March 16 and it is still largely out of control of the 1,000 firefighters who have been mobilized and sent to the area to attempt to quell it.
Since last week, some 103 million pesos ($8.7 million) have been allocated to rent specialized firefighting equipment including a Boeing-747 cistern plane that can dump 76,000 liters (20,000 gallons) of water.
Funds will also be made available to rent four Air Tractor airplanes and six helicopters, as well as to buy tools, supplies and equipment for the firefighters.
In addition, the help of the United States has been requested since that government has considerable ability to deal with such emergencies, Elvira said.
Washington was asked on April 6 to provide “heavy airtankers” to dump water on the fire in keeping with a 2003 bilateral accord.