15 June 2007

Jumbo Jet Poised To Fight Wildfires In Southern California

VICTORVILLE, Calif. -- A DC-10 firefighting air tanker capable of dropping 12,000 gallons of water or fire retardant is ready for Southern California wildfire missions.

"We think... it is going to be a game changer," said Rick Hatton, a managing partner for jet owner 10 Tanker Air Carrier. "It is very effective, especially when trying to contain a large fire."

A $15 million, three-year contract with California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection takes effect Friday and continues through Oct. 15.

The air tanker, which can create a fire line three-quarters of a mile long in eight seconds, demonstrated its prowess Wednesday.

The Victorville-based jumbo jet, which debuted last year with a limited evaluation contract, won praise in fighting six wildfires in California and one in Washington.

The contract means the jet will be available immediately, rather than on a call-when-needed basis.

This is going to be a great tool," said Mike Padilla, the agency's chief of aviation. "This aircraft has the speed and capacity to go to any fire in California."

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