New Aircraft Begin Fighting Fires
BOISE, Idaho (KTVB) — About 80 Idaho firefighters are in central Oregon working to control a large wildfire near the town of Bend. The fire is 25 percent contained but that figure is expected to increase by the end of the day. Along with the ground crews, several brand new air tankers flew for the first time this week in Oregon. It’s an added and much needed resource this fire season. Last fire season, there were 10 air tankers. These are national assets that are sent to where ever they are needed most. But in just the last few weeks, that number jumped to 15. And by this summer it will go up to 18, nearly doubling this type of air support from last year. As flames continue to rip across central Oregon, brand new air tankers are sent. They’re ready to deliver the retardant that will lower the heat and help stop the fire from spreading so firefighters can control the blaze. Several of those air tankers are brand new — like the next generation MD 87s. They can fly faster, they’re jet powered, and they can carry bigger tanks. For years, the forest service has been making do with less. Back in 2012, half of all orders for air tankers went unfilled. While there is always a response to every fire, since the air tankers are a shared national resource, they must go where they are needed most, usually for an initial attack.