Half Of Firefighters' Requests For Air Tankers Last Year Went Unfilled

By Scott Graf

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise has released aviation figures for the 2012 fire season. Among the numbers -- that about half of the calls for air tankers to assist in fighting wildfires last summer went unfilled.

The report shows that of the nearly 850 air tanker requests made by fire managers last summer that weren’t later canceled, 52 percent went unfilled. That figure 10 years ago was 32 percent. In 2000, just 9 percent of requests for tankers went unfilled.

The numbers reflect the depletion of the nation’s aging air tanker fleet. The number of fire-fighting planes available went from 43 in 2000, to just nine last year.

Also of note, the number of helicopter requests last year was at roughly the same level as 10 years ago. Last summer, federal officials touted the increased availability of helicopters as a means of softening the blow of having fewer air tankers.

As a result lack of air tankers – which are used to control fires in their early stages – critics say it’s led to more so-called megafires.

 

On the web:

2012 report: http://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/intelligence/2012_statssumm/resource_charts_tables.pdf

Past reports: http://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/intelligence/intelligence.htm

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