Feds: Air tanker fleet incomplete ahead of wildfire season - WNEM TV 5

Feds: Air tanker fleet incomplete ahead of wildfire season

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A decade ago the U.S. Forest Service had more than 40 air tankers it used to fight the nation's most destructive wildfires. Now the fleet has dwindled down to 10. A number the agency's spokesperson Jennifer Jones called "insufficient."

"We've been working very hard to try and bring additional air tankers into service. It's proven to be very challenging and time consuming," said Jones.

Officials say five brand new aircraft that were supposed to be ready for take-off are grounded because they don't yet comply with federal standards.

"The next generation air tankers need to meet contract requirements to ensure they can fly safely and effectively," said Jones.

Of the 10 aircraft actually in service, eight of them are over a half century old.

"As the air tankers age the risks increase and so do the cost," said Jones.

Officials said they don't know when those five new aircraft will be ready.

Meantime, if additional air support is needed officials told CBS 5 the military and or private contractors as well as planes from Canada could be called in.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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