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Crystal Stonesifer, USFS, RMRS, csstonesifer@fs.fed.us (Presenter)
Dave Calkin, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USFS, decalkin@fs.fed.us
Darek Nalle, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USFS, djnalle@fs.fed.us
Matthew Thompson, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USFS, mpthompson02@fs.fed.us

 

Large airtankers have been widely used in fire suppression operations on federal lands in the United States. Due to aging aircraft and strict airworthiness requirements, the current fleet of airtankers has declined from a high of 43 planes in 2000, to 11 in 2011. At the same time, maintenance costs and exposure risks associated with flying aging aircraft increase each year. The US Forest Service now faces imminent decisions that will shape the airtanker fleet of the future. Moving forward, the large airtanker program must maintain economic viability while simultaneously sustain a fleet of sufficient size to meet suppression demand during periods of critical national fire preparedness. Understanding the characteristics of large airtanker usage in federal fire suppression operations is key to successfully meeting these objectives, yet no dataset currently exists which comprehensively documents these pattern of use or the strategic objectives at play. In this, we present a novel effort at comprehensive integration of spatial airtanker drop data with resource orders and spatial and contextual fire information. Onboard Load and Monitoring System (OLMS) retardant delivery data are matched to Resource Order and Status System (ROSS) large airtanker requests and spatial fire information to track precise locations of airtanker retardant drops on federal lands. The resulting dataset provides a national picture of the majority of large airtanker use in 2010 and 2011. These types of data analyses should help to define the specifics of future large airtanker contracts and direct the parameters of potential federal aircraft acquisitions.