Forest Service adds more aircraft to fight fires
A plan to add additional air tankers to the U.S. Forest Service’s fleet will have no impact on the Porterville Air Attack base, Annie Johnson, assistant air base manager said.
Last week, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell announced the agency is adding eight additional aircraft to its fire fighting fleet to ensure that an adequate number of air tankers are available for wildland fire fighting efforts.
With these additional air tankers, the Forest Service has 16 large air tankers and one very large air tanker available immediately for wildfire suppression.
However, at the Porterville base, both air tankers are affiliated with the state fire fighting agency, CalFire, as is the smaller spotter aircraft. In July, the forest service will base a large sky helicopter at the base, similar to those used recently on the George Fire in the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
Tidwell said in addition to contracting for more permanent air tankers into the fleet, “we’re implementing our plan to bring additional aircraft into operation now. These additional resources will enable us to meet our responsibility to respond vigorously to wildfires threatening lives, communities, and cultural and natural resources,” Tidwell said.
Nine of the operational large air tankers 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 air tanker is also being activated through a “call when needed” contract with the owner, 10 Tanker Air Carrier of Adelanto.
Two other air tankers, CalFire S-2Ts, will be staffed and available in California through an agreement with the state and funded by the Forest Service. The two CalFire planes at Porterville are S-2T Grumman Trackers.
The Forest Service is also arranging for five heavy helicopters, called Type 1s, to become available earlier than scheduled, although Johnson said they have received no word the helicopter will arrive in Porterville than originally scheduled which is the second week of July.
As of Tuesday, the Forest Service had some 4,000 personnel, 62 helicopters and 10 air tankers committed to suppression efforts on over 100 fires including those in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.