It seems that the US Forest Service has decided to pass the buck on fire suppression costs. An Associated Press article today about plans to reduce the amount the feds will pay on future wildfires was disquieting to say the least (Federal audit says let forest fires burn). Wildfires in Southern California can get pricey, especially when they invade the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). Considering that the feds had to pay over $1.5 billion in fire suppression costs this year, they've evidently decided that they need to stop paying everybody else's bills as well.
Whether people will consider this to be fiscally responsible or not, it looks like the financial burden of fighting fires in California could very soon fall on California. This brings up the question of how best to fight fires before they get out of control. I submit that the DC-10 Supertanker is a good place to start. Fire managers on the Day Fire indicated that, had Tanker 910 been used within the first three days after ignition, the fire could have been snuffed. As it was, the feds forbade using the aircraft on federal land (most of the affected area was national forest), and it was only at the moment the fire began threatening the town of Ojai that the DC-10 made retardant drops, which, by the way, stopped the fire's progress towards the town. The Day Fire cost over $74 million to suppress. How much of that cost could have been avoided had Tanker 910 been used in the initial attack?
And in the case of the Esperanza Fire, the cost was much higher - not so much in dollars as in lives. There are five firefighter families which have been impacted by the loss of a family member due to that fire. Never mind the financial cost to whoever ends up paying for the fire, the human cost was way too high. Had the DC-10 been used immediately to fireproof the line where those firefighters were working, the outcome of that fire could have been much different. When it finally got on the fire, it was able to increase containment from 6% to 65% in just a few drops. So why fire officials are still debating the effectiveness of this aircraft is a mystery to me, especially in light of the feds plans for ducking financial responsibility on suppressing fires in the future. Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.