Why isn’t the 747 SuperTanker fighting Oregon fires?


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Hundreds of firefighters are working to control the now 32,000-acre Eagle Creek Fire, which started Saturday night and is still 0% contained.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has said the county, state and federal partners are using “every tool in the toolbox” and all available resources to fight the fire. But many KOIN 6 News viewers have been asking about the 747-SuperTanker and why it’s not being used to drop retardant on the raging flames.

More about the SuperTanker

The SuperTanker is a massive aerial firefighting tanker that can hold almost 20,000 gallons of retardant and travels at nearly 600 mph.

An aviation expert told KOIN 6 News it isn’t an easy solution for a number of reason.

Not only are there state and federal contracts involved, but the tanker is already being used to fight wildfires in California.

“With all these fires going on at the same time, there’s a real question whether its available,” air safety advocate and pilot Tom Young said.

Even if the SuperTanker was available, visibility would be an issue with the Oregon wildfires.

“The air has been extremely smoky, we have limited ability to use the super tankers,” Brown said in a press conference regarding the Eagle Creek fire on September 5.

Young also said the tanker drops at an incredibly high speed, covering 3 miles in just one minute.

“There’s a lot of maneuvering that needs to be done to actually get the retardant on the fire and it’s probably overkill for the specific needs of what they’re doing,” Young said.

Once the 747 does drop its 20,000 gallons of retardant or water, it has to be refilled, but Young says around here, that isn’t practical.

“That almost takes a fire hydrant or a city connection to do that or a fleet of tanker trucks, so that’s a big thing,” Young said.

For now, the SuperTanker will stay in California until it’s deal there ends.

“I will tell you that more than anything right now, we’ve got to attack the fires that were closest to,” SuperTanker CEO Jim Wheeler said. “Get those out…we can’t just be jumping from fire to fire to fire and not just ending the ones that were working on.”

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