Modern fire tanker planes in big demandJun 15, 2012 The Associated Press
CHEYENNE -- President Barack Obama signed a bill this week hastening the addition of seven large tanker planes to the nation's rundown aerial firefighting fleet, at a cost of $24 million.
The same day, two C-130 military transport planes designed for that very purpose sat on a tarmac in Cheyenne, shrouded in an eye-watering haze from a raging Colorado wildfire just a 15-minute flight away.
In all, eight workhorse C-130s stand ready to fight destructive wildfires around the country -- but all are grounded due to rules governing the use of the nation's aerial firefighting resources. The new purchases, meanwhile, won't help firefighters battling destructive blazes in Colorado, New Mexico and elsewhere in the West for weeks, if not months.
"Getting into large, multiple wildfire scenarios, there's just not enough (aircraft) to go around in the current state," said Chuck Bushey, past president of the International Association of Wildland Fire.