Save the Global Supertanker for California Wildfires

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Written on behalf of Allison Walsh (Alison’s Wildfire and Weather World)

The world’s largest firefighting plane has been shut down just as Western states prepare for a wildfire season that fire officials fear could be worse than the average year.

The decision to cease the SuperTanker’s operations was first reported by Fire Aviation, an industry website that reported an email was sent this week to officials in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the U.S. government saying that the investor group that owns the plane was shutting it down.

A spokesman for company that operates the plane, Global SuperTanker Services LLC, declined to comment.

The Global SuperTanker is a converted Boeing 747 plane that can dump up to 19,200 gallons (72,678 liters) of water or flame retardant in just six seconds and fly as low as 200 feet (61 meters) above the ground to do its work. It can be refilled in just 13 minutes.

The SuperTanker has helped in many Western wildfires and was deployed in Israel in 2016 and in Chile in 2017.

I was raised in Sonoma County, and lived there for 30 years. Year after year, someone I know loses a home to wildfires as they begin creeping into residential areas. Every year I go out with a camera and report and the devastation while keeping thousands calm as I report as best I can what’s going on, with worst case and best case scenarios. 

Then there’s that huge sign of relief when we hear that the 747 supertanker is going to come and help. It’s hope, it’s progress, it can stop the forward progress of fires. It saves homes and lives. 

Now investors want to take it away, as if the fate of fire country does not rest in their hands.  

So I’m asking everyone to tell Global SuperTanker Services LLC and every other aviation investor how much we need this. How important it is. 

We are asking them to either keep the Global Supertanker or asking for an investor or government budget who is willing to find it and keep it in service. We know that it is expensive and costly to use. But preservation of wildland, wildlife, and human life is priceless.