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Environment

Douglas County Enlists Help Of World's Largest Air Tanker To Fight Wildfires

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Christian Murdock
/
AP

Douglas County now has some additional support to fight wildfires: a converted Boeing 747-400 airplane.
 
County commissioners have approved a contract with Global SuperTanker, allowing emergency officials to call on the large aircraft to dump water or retardant on out-of-control flames.
 
Emergency manager Tim Johnson told the commissioners he wants to be prepared when large blazes erupt.
“This resource would give us the ability to have the largest wildfire suppression air tanker available in the world,” Johnson says.  

Even though there’s been some wet weather recently, he says dry conditions are expected to return -- and with them, the threat of hard-to-control fires.

“Things have calmed down considerably this year with the snow and the rain that we’ve had,” Johnson says. “But we know here in Douglas County as we approach June it typically dries out and it gets hot.”

Last year the Chatfield fire burned 205 acres in the county, located southwest of Denver, forcing more than 850 people to evacuate. They used smaller air tankers and helicopters, and no homes were damaged.

The larger aircraft can dump nearly 20,000 gallons of liquid in one trip and can travel at 600 MPH.  

Johnson says that while the contract is for up to $200,000, money is only paid out if the tanker is used.

Douglas County’s agreement for the converted 747 is the only one of its type in the United States, although the plane has been used in Israel and Chile.

Colorado officials say an average season brings about 4,500 fires and burns 100,000 acres of land.

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