“…WHETHER the 2005 wildfire season proves to be major or minor, it’s likely to strain our state and the West’s firefighting capabilities. Money’s short, and aircraft counted on to battle blazes aren’t all airworthy.
Only seven of the federal government’s 33 four-engine tankers are sound enough to fly this summer — and three others are so rickety they must avoid populated areas. A couple of dozen contracted aircraft were literally falling apart while aloft.
Though California’s 23-plane fleet is in much better shape — thanks to a $70 million infusion of funds a decade ago — at least three planes are to be grounded each day to save our cash-strapped state $1 million.
All of which has forestry officials praying that the Golden State’s wet winter stymies the combustion that comes with our dry summers….”