May 20 2013
The western United States will be facing fire season in a few months and the Forest Service is preparing to respond within the budget constraints of sequestration.
The summer fire season is the most taxing time for the Forest Service's fleet of aircraft because of the sheer number of fires that start across the western half of the U.S. There have already been large fires even before the start of this year's wildfire season, such as the Camarillo wildfire near Malibu, CA, that has burned at least 28,000 acres. As part of ongoing efforts to recapitalize their fire-fighting aircraft fleet, the Forest Service recently announced that it would be using six large air tankers and a DC-10. Large air tankers drop between 1,000 and 4,000 gallons of water or fire retardant, but the DC-10 is much larger and is in a class of aircraft known as very large air tankers (or VLATs in Forest Service parlance). VLATs can drop 10,000 gallons or more of water or fire retardant to put out or contain fires.