WASHINGTON — With another potentially devastating wildfire season on the horizon, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told Congress on Tuesday that his agency's diminished and aging fleet of firefighting air tankers is insufficient to combat the nation's increasingly severe blazes.
Air tankers are a central component of the Forest Service's firefighting operations, particularly in Inland Southern California, where communities like Lake Arrowhead, Idyllwild and Big Bear are surrounded by rugged terrain and are accessible by only a few roads. But the number of air tankers at the agency's disposal has fallen from 43 to11 in the last 12 years as airworthiness issues grounded many of the decades-old aircraft.
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