Changes coming

The 2010 summer fire season is more than halfway over. Unless something changes, this season will be the third slow season in a row. The National Preparedness was still at Level 2 on a scale of 1-5 (as of August 1). In comparison, the last two years we were at Level 3 by this time; which is still a low number for a normal year.
Three relatively slow years in a row can only mean that we should be in for a doozie of a season in the near future. There have been some pockets of activity around the country: Alaska, as always, was burning in early summer, Texas had an intense run in June and California has got an early start to its season. Western Canada has so far had one of the hottest seasons in history. On July 31, British Columbia was reporting 163 fires.
The fires in Canada claimed two lives on July 31 when a Conair Convair 580 crashed while fighting a fire. Rescue crews were delayed in reaching the site because the accident started a new fire in the rugged terrain. AgAir Update’s staff offers our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the crew members.
The Convair was manufactured in the mid 1960s as a replacement for the Douglas DC-3. The P2-Vs operated by two U.S. vendors came from the same era. A P2-V ran off the runway last month in Colorado due to a hydraulic failure.
There is no evidence that either accident can be attributed to the age of the aircraft, however, the United States Forest Service has decided to retire the heavy air tanker fleet in 2012. As of today, there are no reasonable alternatives on the horizon.
The U.S.F.S. has proposed a fleet of Lockheed C-130 Js equipped with the Mobile Aerial Fire Fighting System (MAFFS). This move would cost more than 2.5 billion U.S. dollars that is not in the budget. Two private companies have tanked the BAe-146/200 commuter aircraft and are currently doing drop testing. The USFS proposal would have private vendors operate the aircraft while the government owns them. As history has proven, like any other government-run program, the longer the control is in place, the more inefficient it will become.
The idea would stop any R&D investment by the private sector. Meanwhile national forests nationwide are lining up to contract SEATs for upcoming fire seasons. Some, for what I have written in this editorial in the past, have chastised me. That is great and the American way. I am happy to know that someone is reading it. Please keep in mind that I only write what I am thinking. What bothers me is they do not have the cajones to reply directly to my comments, but instead always seem to come through a third party.

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