Budget Cuts Force CAL Fire to Nix Super Tankers

Southern California's wildfire season is just heating up, but the state will most likely be without a key tool.

Two contracted converted DC-10s have fallen victim to budget cuts, according to The Press-Enterprise.

Rick Hatton, CEO 10 Tanker Air Carrier which owns and operates two Super Tankers, said he was notified on June 30 about the decision.

The three-year pact paying $7 million for each 120-day fire season appears to be dead, although a similar cancellation two years ago was reinstated, according to the news report.

"It's penny-wise and pound foolish to cut this thing," Hatton told the newspaper. "One big fire ... probably costs 10 times as much as having this thing on for the whole season."

The planes are based at Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville and the contract called for either to be ready to take off within 30 minutes.

Both planes carry nearly 12,000 gallons of fire retardant -- four times the capacity of the U.S. Forest Service's 19 large air tankers.

The even larger modified Boeing 747 is available to the state, but has no seasonal contract with the USFS or any state.

CAL Fire spokeswoman Janet Upton said the cancellation is the best choice among poor alternatives.

"It's important, but has very narrow applications," she said. "Nobody is happy about cutting this."