Thursday, October 25, 2007

Feds stymie firefighting progress

You didn't think the Register could get through more than two days of editorializing on fire-related topics without finding some reason to complain about the government, did you? Of course not!

This one really is pretty egregious. A company converted an old DC-10 by putting a tank on the bottom that can release 10 times as much fire retardant or water as a helicopter and four times as much as one of those converted C-130s. But the Forest Service hasn't approved it for use on federal lands, so only one has been built. Fortunately Gov. Schwarzenegger (after a period of testing) put it on contract for use in California, and it's been doing yeoman work near Arrowhead. But with the feds dragging their feet (Rep. Dana Rohrabacher told me it's driven in part by current contractors who don't want competition) only one has been built.

Perhaps worse: the Russians built a whole fleet of special firefighting planes with large capacities, but the U.S. won't let them operate in the U.S.

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