NPR interview about air tankers

The National Public Radio station in Boston interviewed me early this morning for their Here and Now program, even before I had my first cup of coffee. The topic was air tankers:  “Wildfires Ignite Debate Over Aerial Firefighting”

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

12 thoughts on “NPR interview about air tankers”

  1. Good Job, Bill, I have had problems with Media types over the years. I dissagree with “Why doesn’t the
    Forest Service own Tankers?” Allright…

  2. I’m glad that they inteviewed you. At least they got honest, realistic, and factful answers.

    Some of the mindless, clueless, agency droids in Washington just make me turn off the news/interview.

  3. Very good interview. Cal Fire does have the best model but it is expensive. We need to convince folks that safe, effective, and efficient wildland firefighting costs money. One note however in regards to your interview. I live in Calif and just returned from an assignment on the fires in Colorado. Upon my return my wife mentioned that this was the warmest day we have had since I left for Colorado 12 days ago. We have not (yet) had the significant fire weather, at least in northern Calif., that they have had in the midwest.

    1. CAL FIRE (a state agency) “might” have the best model, but it must be FULLY understood that their program… from start to finish… was primarily funded by the FEDERAL govt.

      The acquisition of the initial aircraft (S-2A) (FEPP); upgrade of initial aircraft; acquisition of newer S-2E/G aircraft through direct DoD sales (post USFS “tanker scandal”; and eventual conversion/upgrading/retrofitting of the newer aircraft to the current S-2T platforms.

      While the CAL FIRE model is a success, it MUST be understood that the the bulk of funding was provided by federal programs and grants.

      If the Federal Govt can make a state airtanker program successful, it SHOULD be able to fund a successful federal airtanker program also.

      Legacies of the 1990’s “USFS Airtanker Scandal” still exist.


  4. I thought it was a very good interview. Only concern I have is that the media focuses almost exclusively on air tankers as if they were the resource that is most critical to fire management. I know air attack is “glamorous,” but it isn’t what stops large fires. We are so often simply at the mercy of the weather or working exclusively with ground forces and helicopters. The media needs to understand this, as well.

  5. I agree with Don Hall, the average listener to this interview may take away that if we had more airtankers and dispatched them quickly, that we’d suffer few or no large wildfires. That’s simply not true.
    There is likely no correlation between the CalFire model and the fact there have been no large fires in California so far this season. The weather to date has been vastly different than that in the Rocky Mtn states and it’s not like California hasn’t got a history of devastating fires despite the aggressive use of a “couple dozen S2s”. Contrary to the comment made by Bill in the interview, airtankers do not put any fire “out”.

    The critical first step has been achieved in solving the ongoing crisis: offering long-term contracts. That will do more to improve the health, stability and innovation of the private contractors. Too bad it took us so long to get there – even though other countries have been doing it for decades.

    1. GeeBee: you made some valid points. You are absolutely correct that air tankers do not put out fires, as I have written many times on this site. Firefighters on the ground do.

      When I said “…and they put it out”, I was referring to the combined efforts of the firefighters on the ground and the three air tankers that arrived on scene within 30 minutes of the first report of the fire.

      Usually in interviews I manage to get in something like this: “Air tankers don’t put out fires. At best, they can slow them down so firefighters on the ground can put them out”.

      Oh, and to clarify, CAL FIRE has 23 air tankers.

  6. After getting off of the fire in Harrison, NE , hanging around some LEPC’s for a few days in NE and spending 3 days in the BWCA…I found this little gem.

    NIIIICE Work, Bill!!

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