Air tanker drops in wildfires are often just for show

"CNN Drops"

The reason for the interference, they say, is that aerial drops of water and retardant make good television. They're a highly visible way for political leaders to show they're doing everything possible to quell a wildfire, even if it entails overriding the judgment of incident commanders on the ground.

Firefighters have developed their own vernacular for such spectacles. They call them "CNN drops." [...]

Increased use of aircraft is helping to drive up the cost of fighting wildfires. The Forest Service spent $296 million on aerial firefighting last year, compared with $171 million in 2004. Aviation costs amount to about one-fifth of the agency's fire-suppression spending.

Nearly all of the nation's firefighting aircraft are owned and operated by private companies under contract with the government. The meter starts running when an incident commander calls aircraft to a fire. It continues whether a plane is in the air dropping retardant or sitting on a remote tarmac, waiting for visibility to improve.

It costs up to $14,000 a day to keep an air tanker on call and as much as $4,200 per hour to put it in the air. Heavy-duty helicopters, the workhorses of aerial firefighting, can cost $32,000 a day on standby, plus $6,300 per hour of flight time.

"When you deal with aviation on a wildland fire, you have a big bank in the sky that opens up and showers money," said Timothy Ingalsbee, a former Forest Service and National Park Service firefighter who has criticized federal firefighting and forest management practices.

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3 Responses:

  1. Bunny42 says:

    CNN drops! Excellent!

  2. BHN says:

    All of this has happened before. And all of this will happen again.

  3. Leonardo Herrera says:

    Back in 2017, down here in Chile, we got our own soap opera with not one but two big tankers: the Super Tanker (USA) and Ilyushin (RUS). Initially the government, following the technical recommendations from the guys actually fighting fires, refused to hire these kind of airplanes due to their cost and dubious effectiveness. The "public opinion" was merciless against the government, which (after a woman married to a US billionaire donated a couple million dollars to bring the Super Tanker for two weeks) buckled up and ended up paying not only for the Super Tanker bills but also hiring their competition, the Russian guys.

    And, of course, since public opinion is gospel, now we pay big bucks to have these kind of planes routinely doing gigs here. Which is kind of outrageous since we aren't a rich country.

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