The Reason We Don’t Have Enough Airplanes to Put Out Wildfires

Retrofitting massive jets to fight infernos is expensive, and companies say that government contracts don’t make it worth their while.

When the White House gathered a group of governors late last month to discuss this year’s devastating wildfire season, California Gov. Gavin Newsom used his time with the president to share a lament. The country, he explained, simply did not have enough planes capable of dousing infernos. Specifically, it had too few DC-10 air tankers, jumbo-sized crafts only four of which are currently available nationwide. “We do not come close to having the tools in the air that we need,” he said.

“We have four DC-10s, Mr. President. Four,” Newsom, whose state is currently on pace for a year of record destruction from fire, exclaimed. “And we’re competing. They’re all contracted. We compete with you. We compete with other states. We don’t even have access right now to DC-10s.” The governor continued his plea for more of the jets into August.


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