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DFPC explains why the Global SuperTanker is not being used to fight wildfires in Colorado

 Global SuperTanker.
Global SuperTanker. (KKTV)
Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 10:37 PM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - As wildfires continue to burn across Colorado, many 11 News viewers have reached out wondering why the Global SuperTanker isn’t joining the fight.

The Global SuperTanker, a Boeing 747 aerial firefighter, is based out of Colorado Springs. According to the company that runs the aircraft, the Supertanker has almost twice the capacity of the next largest aerial tanker. It can be almost anywhere in the U.S. in about 2.5 hours. As of Wednesday, the aircraft was being utilized in California. According to a statement sent to 11 News from public information officer Caley Fisher with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention & Control (DFPC), “While the [SuperTanker] may be the best resource for a large Front Range fire with its massive drop capability, other firefighting aircraft may be more appropriate for remote fires in more complex terrain or high-density altitude settings. In such cases smaller, more nimble aircraft, such as helicopters or SEATs.”

Fisher also added the Global SuperTanker is on an exclusive use contract with the USFS.

According to a Frequently Asked Questions page on the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention & Control’s website, Colorado is using a number of other aerial resources across the state. The below information is posted on that webpage:

All of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control’s (DFPC) Exclusive Use contracted aircraft fleet and aircrews are committed to fighting Colorado fires. This includes:

  • 2 helicopters
  • 2 Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs)
  • 2 Pilatus PC-12 Multi-Mission Aircraft (MMA) equipped with multiple cameras, including infrared.

The same webpage answers why the Global SuperTanker being used in Colorado yet. The answer is in line with the email sent to KKTV by DFPC.

"Cal Fire in California has activated their contract with the Global Supertanker and the Global Supertanker is unavailable to the State of Colorado until they are released from the California contract.

Additionally, it is important to note that incident commanders, when aircraft are available select and use the most appropriate aircraft for each wildfire response. Selecting the appropriate resource for the fire environment is critical to firefighting efficiency and aerial firefighting success. Aircraft performance factors include take-off distance, fuel burn rate, fuel duration and engine performance. Aerial firefighting effectiveness also depends on fuel type and terrain of the fire environment.

While the Supertanker’s massive drop capability may be the best resource for some fires, other firefighting aircraft may be more appropriate for remote fires in more complex terrain or in higher-elevationor hotter-temperature settings. In such cases smaller, more maneuverable aircraft (such as helicopters or SEATs) are safer and more effective. As with all aircraft, the Global Supertanker aircraft performance is affected by temperature and elevation. The higher and hotter the conditions, the more power is required -- which can translate to decreased available payload or less fuel duration.”

Some of the major wildfires burning in Colorado include:

- Grizzly Creek Fire

- Pine Gulch Fire

- Cameron Peak Fire

- Williams Fork Fire

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