US Forest Service adds additional aircraft to wildland firefighting inventory

Airtankers and heavy helicopters will strengthen agency's ability to respond

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell recently announced the agency is adding eight additional aircraft to its firefighting fleet to ensure that an adequate number of airtankers are available for wildland firefighting efforts.

With these additional airtankers, the Forest Service has 16 large airtankers and one very large airtanker available immediately for wildfire suppression.

"In addition to contracting for more permanent airtankers into our fleet, we're implementing our plan to bring additional aircraft into operation now," Tidwell said. "These additional resources will enable us to meet our responsibility to respond vigorously to wildfires threatening lives, communities, and cultural and natural resources."

Nine of the operational large airtankers are on exclusive use contracts and include eight P2Vs and one BAe-146. The BAe-146 can carry 3,000 gallons of retardant or water.

The agency has activated five CV-580 Convairs, one through an agreement with the state of Alaska and four through an agreement with the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. A DC-10 very large airtanker is also being activated through a "call when needed" contract with the owner, 10 Tanker Air Carrier of Adelanto, Calif.

Two other airtankers, CAL FIRE S-2Ts, will be staffed and available in California through an agreement with the state and funded by the Forest Service. The Forest Service is also arranging for five heavy helicopters, called Type 1s, to become available earlier than scheduled.

The CV-580s are owned by Conair Group Inc., of British Columbia, Canada. CV-580s provide similar operational capacity to P2Vs as both can fly in all types of terrain, can carry approximately 2,100 gallons of retardant, and can operate from any of the agency's primary or reload tanker bases.

The agency also can mobilize eight military C-130s equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems and, through an agreement with the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, another three CV-580 Convairs. Additional aircraft are also available through U.S. Department of the Interior contracts.

As of June 12, the Forest Service had some 4,000 personnel, 62 helicopters and 10 airtankers committed to suppression efforts on over 100 fires including those in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on our lands contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

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