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Friday, June 15, 2012

Global Warming Fires Take Firefighters By Surprise

One of the biggest effects of Global Warming is the much higher incidence of wildfires, especially in the Southwestern US. This area is predicted to grow inceasingly dry over this century, with drought becoming a chronic condition. Although we're only twelve years into the century, we've already seen some of the largest droughts in history. These droughts are causing wildfires which quickly grow and get out of control.

The US forest service has not adapted to the wildfire threat. New Tanker Planes Sought as Wildfires Rage describes the situation:

President Barack Obama signed a bill Wednesday hastening the addition of those aircraft at a cost of $24 million. The same day, two firefighting C-130 military transport planes sat on a tarmac in Cheyenne, shrouded in an eye-watering haze from a Colorado wildfire just a 15-minute flight away.

In all, eight workhorse C-130s stand ready to fight destructive wildfires around the country — but all are grounded due to rules governing the use of the nation's aerial firefighting resources, and the new purchases probably won't be able to help firefighters for weeks, if not months.

It's just another case of government red tape which is allowing these wildfires to spring up from initially small and very controllable outbreaks to holocausts.

With drought and what has become a yearlong wildfire season, some experts insist as many as 50 planes, large and small, are needed nationwide, said Bill Gabbert, a wildfire blogger, veteran firefighter and owner of the Wildfiretoday.com website.

"You need to have air tankers responding within 25 or 30 minutes to new fires so they can slow them down quickly so that firefighters on the ground can put them out," Gabbert said. "But we no longer have that capability. So initial attack by aerial resources is a quaint memory."

The result: More small fires that become mega-fires and are far more expensive to fight than if they'd been snuffed out early, he said.

"Sure, it's expensive to contract for air tankers. But it's more expensive to pay the tens of millions of dollars when a few of those fires become very large," Gabbert said.

Tragedy got the U.S. tanker plane fleet to its current state.

The fleet numbered 44 planes a decade ago. A series of high-profile crashes, including wings that fell off a privately-owned C-130 and a 1940s-era PB4Y-2 Privateer in midflight, caused the Forest Service to ground 33 air tankers in 2004.

The Lockheed P2Vs, with eight still in the firefighting fleet, also have a history of fatalities. A P2V crashed in Utah last week, killing two pilots. Since 1990, the Cold War-era submarine attack planes have crashed at least seven times, killing 16.

Ben Franklin would almost certainly describe our government as being “penny wise and pound foolish.”