Will supertanker be used in Oregon to fight fires?

The human-caused Eagle Creek Fire grew from 3,200 acres early Monday to 4,800 acres by the end of the day. It forced the Oregon Department of Transportation to close Interstate 84 in both directions between Hood River and Troutdale. Photo by Tristan Fortsch

KATU has received many emails from people wanting to know why firefighting supertankers aren't flying in Oregon.

In particular, people are asking about the Global SuperTanker. It's based on Evergreen's giant firefighting plane.

The new firefighting 747 saw its first action in California last month, and Oregon lawmakers told KATU it will be available to fire commanders here.

“Once they release it from their contractual obligations, since it's been carded by the U.S. Forest Service, it will be available to the incident commanders across the Northwest and the United States to be able to be used on their fires if they see fit,” said State Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford.

The jet carries almost 20,000 gallons of water or retardant.

When asked about it Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown indicated a limited ability to use supertankers because of wind and smoke.

The U.S. Forest Service said airtankers are used to drop fire retardend to reduce the intensity and prevent wildfires from spreading. This allows firefighters on the ground to build containment lines safely.

"Airtankers are typically not used to suppress wildfires directly and are most effective when used in coordination with firefighters on the ground," the U.S. Forest Service said in an email.

They said the Global SuperTanker does not currently have a contract with the U.S. Forest Service to provide airtankers for wildfire suppression.

"The U.S. Forest Service is working aggressively to formally announce a Request for Proposals for Very Large Airtankers," they said.

Under certain circumstances, Very Large Airtankers are available to the Forest service under limited contracts.

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