Firefighting Planes: Effective but Expensive
A recent study says wildfires could be fought more effectively with “scooper” planes that pick up water by skimming along the surface of a lake or river.
Scooper planes are more expensive, but they put out wildfires more quickly. According to the study, conducted by the RAND Corporation for the U.S. Forest Service, this effectiveness could save money overall.
“We had rivers go dry. We had lakes – like Lake Travis – [that] got so low, we couldn’t use them. You have to have a mile to a mile and a half of free, deep water,” Boggus says. “You go to East Texas where we have available water, [and] you’ve got timber, stumps and trees sticking up. You don’t want to hit one of those with a scooper.”
The head of the U.S. Forest Service rejected this central finding of the RAND study on scoopers. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told the New York Times that he believes they’re underestimating the cost of scoopers and overestimating the cost of older air tankers.