In Colorado wildfires, 'worst in state history', why won't the Forest Service use the biggest firefighting tool available?

Boeing 747 Supertanker Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) in action

AP labels the 2012 Colorado wildfires worst in state history in this story.

My friend and fellow climate skeptic, nationally syndicated radio host Lars Larson, asks some pointed and pertinent questions about what appears to be some of the most idiotic policy ever devised by government. Since we’ve been covering some of the folly of trying to link the fire to global warming, I thought this government folly with trying to put it out would go along with the issues discussed here. – Anthony

He writes in an email to me from Friday:

I have new questions rolling around in my head every day but there are at least four things I know for sure this morning.  This year the U.S. Forest Aervice will spend north of a billion dollars fighting forest fires across America.  Billions of dollars worth of trees owned by the American people will go up in flames.  And a $50 million dollar airplane that could put those fires out faster sits on the ground in Arizona because the U.S. Forest Service refuses to hire Evergreen Aviation.  Now you may be saying, “There must be a good reason”.  That’s what I thought, but then I remembered that government is capable of multibillion dollar stupidity on a daily basis.  The Forest Service offers no explanation whatsoever. 

And evergreen aviation points out that their 747 supertanker fire fighting plane has been hired by Mexico and Israel to fight fires and earned high marks.  It drops ten times as much water as the biggest forest service tanker in use…and does it at half the cost per gallon.  It’s big enough and fast enough to cover fires anywhere in America…and the forest service refuses to use it…and it’s your forests that are going up in flames.

Today’s statement from Evergreen Aviation about why the U.S. Forest service refuses to use its 747 flying supertanker firefighting plane.


Date: 6/29/12

Evergreen International Aviation Statement Concerning the Supertanker

We felt compelled to release this statement due to the overwhelming amount of calls we have received concerning the availability of the Evergreen Supertanker. We at Evergreen are saddened by the fire devastation now taking place in many Western US states. For over 60 years, we have supported the US Forest Service in its important mission to battle and control fires, and it is our desire to continue this rich history of service. While our helicopters continue to work fires for the State of Alaska under State contracts, unfortunately, our Boeing 747 Supertanker Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) aircraft awaits activation with the US Forest Service.

We have never been told why we have not been activated by the US Forest Service, so we can only speculate as to why we face this outcome:

1. We were offered a Call-When-Needed (CWN) contract a few years ago by the US Forest

Service (proving our technical viability), but we were never called into action resulting in

a multi-million dollar loss to our company as we were required to maintain and have

flight crew available should we be called. The only contract that will sustain a VLAT

program is an Exclusive-Use contract, which provides an income stream to sustain the

program even if the asset is not utilized. We invested over $50M to develop this asset in

the firm belief that we could better control fires as we proved in Israel and Mexico under

CWN contracts that we could afford to offer at the time.

2. There have been recent changes to the US Forest Service procurement policies. Today,

only small businesses are eligible for contract awards concerning air tanker assets;

Evergreen is not a small business and, therefore, is excluded from consideration for any


3. The US Forest Service’s specification for Next Generation Air Tanker aircraft limits tank

size to 5,000 gallons. The Supertanker’s tanks hold about 20,000 gallons, which is

considered outside the USFS specification. The USFS just awarded contracts to four

small businesses with aircraft equipped with these smaller tanks, and excluded the

Evergreen Supertanker. Since World War II, tank capacities have been in the 3,000 to

5,000 gallon range, yet we continue to face the growing threat from mega fires today. We

believe the Supertanker represents an overwhelming response to this growing threat.

Please contact your state representatives in Washington DC to demand an examination of their current procurement policies concerning VLAT aircraft. The US Forest Service says it best: “Only YOU can prevent wildfires.”


Here’s Lars Friday interview with Evergreens VP:

Here’s Lars interview with Evergreen three weeks ago:

Here are videos of tanker that could be fighting fires in Colorado and elsewhere…that have killed Americans, burned houses, destroyed public property and timber

Where’s the President?


Check out my new page and “like” me at The Lars Larson Show


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“Why won’t the Forest Service use the biggest firefighting tool available?”
It’s official policy: don’t let a good crisis go to waste.
They need the scare of this to further the AGW-agenda. Be prepared for worse to come.

Ben Wilson

Wasn’t Evergreen involved with some CIA operations in the Reagan era?
It would be so politically incorrect to hire those folks. . . . . . .

Pamela Gray

Good ol’ Lars. Used to be a broadcast reporter in Oregon. Can’t remember which station (an Oregon affiliate of NBC, ABC, CBS, or channel 12). He can be a conservative idiot at times. But in this case, he’s done some right good reporting.

The simple answer is firefighting is big business and big money and big union. Putting the fire out ruins the gravy train. This is how firefighting works on every level. They wait until the fires are out of control, then come in to stand there pretty much.
, I’ve seen it with my own eyes in my high-fire area. It’s intentional.
Most logging has been banned, enabling incredible danger and a giant anti-fire infrastructure with all the funding. The warmist narritive fits nicely with Big Fire.

Barry Sheridan

I can think of one reason why governmental organisations prefer to pursue policies that make disastrous situations worse. They hope to use the resultant adverse publicity for their own ends, that these aims are usually counter to the wellbeing of ordinary people is simply irrelevant to their way of thinking.

The free market would never let this happen. It’s amazing how ideology rules over and outweighs public good.

Anyone who thinks the paper-pushers at the Forst Service and other government agencies in charge of our tax dollars have any remaining control over the idiotic rules, legislation and regulations for handing out contracts, you are sorely mistaken. I have worked with government contracting officers and all the accompanying red tape for years. There is no fixing it. For the work I have done with the defense agencies and DoE as a contractor, I can only offer the following true quote from one of the engineers who supervised our work: “Mike, the Government got rid of all their good engineers, policy-makers and contracting officers decades ago ago….and now you have me.” Translate that to mean: “we don’t know what we are doing and there is no leadership to fix it”.
As with all great great societies and governments throughout history, we have woven such a tangled we of meaningless laws and regulations, that we are now slaves to a government in decline.

Reblogged this on truemajority and commented:
Great BIG kudos the Anthony Watts; Please goto his blog @ WUWT and become as informed as I have.

Big Al

It’s pretty much a crime that the Forest Service would let a asset like this sit around. Obama was out here in Colorado hugging people but never lifted a finger to get any of the large tankers under contract. There is also a tanker based on a DC-10 that doesn’t have a contract.
One other thing, the company that makes the water bomber pallet for the C-130 is apparently bankrupt so you won’t see any more C-130 tankers than we already have. Ironically they went bankrupt because the government took so long to certify the installation.


It looks like it looks like ,where did we see this before ? The BP oil problem. On whose watch did that happen.?

Leon Brozyna

The perfect exposé that should be at the top of Drudge … I left them a link … now let’s see if they offer it.

Pamela Gray says June 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm
Good ol’ Lars. Used to be a broadcast reporter in Oregon. Can’t remember which station (an Oregon affiliate of NBC, ABC, CBS, or channel 12). He can be a conservative idiot at times.

I suppose opposing spending OPM (Other People’s Money, and collected on the threat of IRS jail-time) on pet social causes is the reason some cite to think that way … but, I’m curious, Pamela, can you give a specific example of made you think of him that way ?

Lady Life Grows

Yes, another environazi environmental disaster caused by trust in Big Government.
It just so happens that this week’s Westword (weekly in-depth free news in Denver) has an article on the Pine Bark Beetle. There is good science to the effect this critter is 2000 feet higher in elevations than it has ever been in the Holocene before, and is producing two generations per summer, also new. I
Instead of blaming forest mismanagement, we get the global warming claptrap. The warming is too trivial to cause such a dramatic effect, the beetles are changing from Colorado to Canada. One can find out plenty more about forest mismanagement from Iain Murray’s “The Really Inconvenient Truths.” This refusal to search for actual causes threatens all the US’s and worldwide forests.


Here is another stupid rule enacted (don’t know federally or locally). After the 1996 Buffalo Creek forest fire (also in Colorado), the governor cannot activate the National Guard to help in a forest fire situation until “all commercial options have been exahuasted”. Why??? Because the Colorado Army National Guard costs significantly less AND the small business’s can’t make money fighting fires when the National Guard is involved. Don’t know why a business is allowed to make a profit on the hardship of others. Since this is a family friendly site, I won’t share my feelings beyond FACEPALM!

Look, maybe I’m starting to go a bit tin-hat on the subject of fire. But what explains the odd indifference to this massive source of atmospheric carbon, from the very people who preach loudest about “carbon pollution”? Warmists here in Oz are cool on mitigating bushfire, they don’t like to calculate its “footprint” and they don’t even like to talk about it.
Our climate changed – in 2007, to be exact – though some did not notice, or pretended not to notice. Eastern Australia has undergone massive regrowth, with oceanic winds dominant and abundant rains coinciding with reduced clearing, forestry and development.
When climate changes again, maybe when the PDO flips back, and westerlies dominate in late-winter/spring, as in the nineties, all that regrowth will be exposed to fire on a national scale.
It won’t be a new thing, but it’s a hoot to think that when the conflagrations are threatening or occurring, there will be bureaucrats and boffins advising on the carbon emissions from different brands of fire-pumps.


Saw this lovely beast in action in Alberta about 5 summers ago.A thing of beauty. 1/4 mile wide and 3 mile long swath in one pass. But as others here have said,never let a good crisis go to waste. After all,if the firefighters can’t “fight” the fire,they have no job! Think of the kiddies!!!(union exec’s kiddies in this case)

Amr marzouk

Maybe the planes engines would contribute to AGW

“In Colorado wildfires, ‘worst in state history’, why won’t the Forest Service use the biggest firefighting tool available?”
Well, one thing the US Forest Service and the present US administration can’t say:
. . “We’re doing everything possible …
… if they haven’t given Evergreen International a call and made use of this fire-fighting water-delivery asset …

Steve C

Evergreen, you have the (very fine!) tanker plane, we in the UK have plenty of spare water …the US Gov has, err, an agenda?


The only 747 that Obama gives a real workout is Air Force One flying back and forth across the country to fundraisers.

Robert of Ottawa

A truly amazing private enterprise capability. I expect the real rason is somethoing to do with political donations. And, to the questioner “where is Obama” .. his minions will be in Paris on Jul 4th for a massive election fundraiser….dunno how he will be able to avoid foreign intervention in his electoral campaign.


too bad a threatened city or a state can’t just go hire the thing to do a strategic drop or two to save their bacon and let the obamination and the feds explain why they didn’t do it.

James Ard

When all of the facts come out about the federal response to the oil spill, this will no longer be a mystery.


Very simple answer to why Colorado is allowed to burn.
It’s a red state.
Just like Gibson Guitars being raided, but not Martin.

Anybody know if Evergreen is unionized or willing to always pay Davis-bacon wages?

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

The main problem might just be that super-tanker can’t be Green enough. The Forest Service is drastically low on tankers anyway, but that big brute can’t fit into the Green Agenda.
TOWN HALL: Obama shrunk aerial firefighting fleet (poll)
Green agenda targets slurry bombers
As to the number of tankers:

Washington-based Human Events magazine reported in September of 2011 that nearly half of the federal government’s air tankers sat idle at a California airport, as wildfires ripped through national forests throughout California, Texas, New Mexico, and other states.
It turns out the Obama administration ended a long-standing contract, leaving the Forest Service with only 11 tankers to battle 50 wildfires that were burning nationwide. A decade ago, the Forest Service had 40 firefighting tankers.
The Obama administration canceled the government’s contract with Aero Union — a company with 60 employees that had been under contract with the Forest Service for 50 years. Though it canceled that contract, the administration had no plan for an immediate replacement. Aero Union CEO Britt Gourley told Human Events the administration provided no details on why the contract was ended.
“They didn’t want to talk about it,” Gourley said of Obama administration officials.

As to the Green issue:

Environmentalists have fought the use of slurry for years, which may or may not explain why Obama seems to lack enthusiasm for a robust tanker fleet. Environmentalists sued to stop the use of fire retardant after it killed 50 steelhead trout in the Santa Ynez River near Santa Barbara, Calif., in 2009. An earlier lawsuit involved the accidental dumping of between 1,000 and 2,000 gallons of fire retardant into Oregon’s Fall River in 2002, a mistake that killed all fish in the river. That mishap involved a slurry formula that is no longer used.
As a result of the most recent lawsuit, the Forest Service adopted rules that prevent dropping slurry within 300 feet of streams and lakes except when human lives are at risk. Forest officials say the rules won’t harm firefighting efforts.

Spend a billion plus dollars fighting with the equipment they got, let hundreds of thousands of acres burn causing many millions of dollars of damage with the disruption and likely injury and death of many humans.
But since that 20,000 gallon fast-flying tanker plane can’t be precise enough to guarantee that no slurry will wind up in in some water somewhere, it is all worth it to save the fish.
The joke is Green is the new Red. Now Fiery Red is the new Green.
Oh well, afterwards they can put up lots of windmills without worrying about clearance above treetops or interference from birds. The Greens will be very happy, between that and the fish they saved.

It’s not just that. A large chunk of North America’s firefighting capacity is currently sitting idle due to the current lack of fires in Canada. But most of Canada’s firefighting helicopters cannot be used in the US because they aren’t twin-engined and thus can’t legally be flown for firefighting work. This occured despite the fact that single-engine helicopters like the Bell 214B are actually superior firefighting platforms than the twin-engined helicopters used in the US (mostly the Bell 212 series and Bell 412 series) which have around half the useful payload of a 214B, especially up in the mountains.

u.k. (us)

I have to wonder what the turn around time between a 747 vs a 5000 gallon drop plane would be, also the precision of the drops due to maneuverability in mountainous terrain.
But what do I know, and no the fire is not approaching my house.

The Martin Mars has a capacity of 7200 US gallons. Being a flying boat, it can refill from any body of water large enough… 25 seconds. For more information on the aircraft, see


Looks like they decided to make the sequel for the movie Dumb an Dumber after all, is being made at the US Forrest service.

The stupidity of government never ceases to amaze me. Along with the irrational idiocy of not incorporating better forest management practices like the thinning of forests to reduce forest fire impacts (as Native Americans did centuries ago), this makes me want to just go outside and scream. Unfortunately, it’s too hot to do so (and yes, I know AGW has nothing to do with the fires or the hot weather).


…Because it doesn’t work. Looks good for the Tee Vee news and punters. Evergreen is a well known CIA contractor looking for media hype to suckle more lucre from Uncle Sugar.

Wayne Strong

Try this, let your back yard go untouched for 5 or 10 years. Don’t even walk in there! (I.E. closed roads) Then toss a match to it in summer and see if you can put it out before it burns your house down. Good luck.
To make it more of a comparison cut garden hoses from your household budget during this period.
P.S. Anthony, I was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel syndrome 4-5 years ago. I had it so bad it would keep me up at night. Since then have learned two simple stretches that completely cleared it up:
First, hold your arm stiff in front, pull your fingers back till it almost hurts, 6-8 times then alternate.
second, place fingers of one hand on the back of your hand, thumb on heel of palm and bend hand toward wrist, again till point of pain 6-8 time then alternate.
Really worked for me, no symtoms whatsoever now.

Mike C.

Why doesnt Evergreen just fly their plane up to Colorado Springs or Denver and park it at the airport? Then, hold a press conference with some locals!

Is this decision making process just the result of stupidity and incompetence, as is usual, or is it in fact a deliberate Democrat policy to pursue a ploy that make a disastrous situation even worse, in order to further for their own “ecological-socialist” intentions? The fact that this policy endangers people’s lives, destroys their homes and community is quite irrelevant to their fanatical conscience.


Evergreen is one of those evil corporations (queue death star music) that the left hates. If they put the fire out, the enevitable economic stimulus money (broken window falacy) would not be needed.


In the UK our Environment ministeress is blaming her department’s poor performance on planning for floods on the “Global warming”. I suppose it must be the same all over the world, blame the CO2 bogey man, and it will get them (the politicians) off the hook. Of course the real reason we had flash floods in the UK from bog standard summer storms was the ground is now concreted over and the streams engineered into walled channels that canna take it captain. Though It doesn’t help when 18 year old activists go on the TV saying they have never seen weather like it before.

Doug Proctor

Mike C has good idea. But if Everygreen did that, they would be blackballed forever. Try making your potential employer look bad and see what it does for future business.
The question has to be put to the Governors when they are at a public meeting about the damages of wildfires, why the best-of-the-best firefighting equipment that foreign countries used is too good enough for Americans with homes in danger.


Didn’t give to the right re-election campaigns.
They’d be swimming in sweet taxpayer money.


Why are people building expensive homes in known mountain fire country and then expecting taxpayers to protect them from their folly?

Robin say June 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm
Anybody know if Evergreen is unionized or willing to always pay Davis-bacon wages?

Make that the “Davis–Bacon” * (re: Davis–Bacon Act of 1931) or my mouth may start watering (think: “Beggin’ Strips Dog Snacks” and the commercials they sponsor) …
(Who doesn’t love bacon!? The smell; the aromatic essence!!)
* or Robert L. Bacon of Long Island, NY (for which the bill was partially named) might feel slighted, maybe execute a 1/4 turn in the grave, etc.


Time for the Colorado Gov to annex the “federal” land and make his own calls.

TG McCoy (Douglas DC)

As an former Aritanker pilot near 10 years, and still keep up with the business-may actually go back if things fall in to place this summer, Bill Gabbert’s blog:
is an excellent source. No agenda just the facts. There are the two DC-10’s 910 and 911.
911 is not used much for what ever reason 910 is parked. Like Evegreen’s 747. Here are some pertinent bit of infromation:
1. We used to have as recently as 2004 44 tankers. First the USFS decided that the Tankers
Should be more modern, i.e. Jet powered. OK. Out go the four-engine Douglases 4/6/7.
The best safety record? Three fatals in on 35 years? -check that against the Neptune(P2)
Oh but they are Old! Now the Newest Convair 580’s that are being used from Conair in Canada,
good airplanes, and people, but the newest 580 is four years older than the oldest DC7 which are
still around-on Oregon and California contracts,they are 3000 gallon Tankers…
The former Aero Union P-3s are still aournd but for how long no one knows. Part of
Aero Union’s problems were internal and not as politically motivated as reported.
But, these 3000 gallon aircraft wil not be round much longer…
2. Policy changes, it appears that Airtankers are now not used on inital attack. mainly due to
scarcity, they are not used until the fire is over the hill..Not doing forest management, including reducing fuel loads, there are areas that have 30-40-50 year old reprod, and are inches apart.
useful timber but are very suseptible to crowning fire.
3. Lack of a real replacement. There is progress here like the Avro/BAE 146 a nifty little
ex-regional airliner with four ( love four engines for an airtanker) engines, and if they get the coverage right, good tanker. The key here is inital attack. This would help in corralling the
fires, as the start. Like Waldo Canyon… Others, coming on include MD-80’s (Douglas) and
Bombardier/Dehavilland Twins all former Airliners,,
We need to address all of this but unless the Goverment bodies are willing we may see
the fire season end when the Great Tanker Pilot in the sky decides to call it…

Mac the Knife

Pamela Gray says:
June 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm
“Good ol’ Lars. ….. He can be a conservative idiot at times.”
That’s not ‘brass’, m’ lass. That’s just crass.


When the Carmel wildfire broke out in Israel ten firefighting aircraft fought the fire. Four from Cyprus, two from Turkey, two from Russia, one from France, five from Spain, three from the United States, including the 747-200 supertanker, and one from Germany. In addition there were three helicopters from Cyprus and two from Britain.
In the US it surely couldn’t be political could it?


June 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm
Anybody know if Evergreen is unionized or willing to always pay Davis-bacon wages?
Last year Evergreen was in a labor dispute that had been going on for a least a few years that ended up being mediated by the NLRB. The left does not like them at all, “OMG they are a CIA FRONT!!!”. They also gave $30K to R’s and $0.00 to D’s in the 2011-2012 time frame.

u.k. (us) says June 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm
I have to wonder what the turn around time between a 747 vs a 5000 gallon drop plane would be, also the precision of the drops due to maneuverability in mountainous terrain. …

The Mission Compatibility paragraph in this analysis from a USFS VLAT Operational Test and Evaluation Summary Report (courtesy NASA) in 2009 says this regarding ‘maneuverability’ in irregular terrain:

It was concluded that VLAT [Very Large Aerial Tanker] aircraft are probably compatible with the wildland fire suppression mission, provided that they are used to supplement other aerial retardant delivery platforms rather than replace them in all environments.
Steep or rugged terrain, reduced visibility due to smoke and ash, and situations where topography or other factors result in irregularly-shaped delivery zones will affect any aerial retardant delivery aircraft, but it is believed these scenario characteristics will affect VLATs to a larger degree, and may preclude their effective use for certain classes of fires, particularly those with small or irregularly shaped delivery zones.
Extremely rugged terrain will make setting up for stabilized deliveries challenging, particularly
where the pilot must judge wingtip terrain clearance while maneuvering over irregular terrain for setup. These conclusions are based on pilot comments generated during multiple simulated deliveries using high-fidelity visual simulators over various terrain types. Dispatch decisions will need to take these and other factors into account.

So, yes, some concerns regarding mountain flights …


The USFS is manned, or should I say wom-maned, by affirmative action morons rather then the best person for the job, Please note I said the best person for the job which may be a women. They are a government agency that cowtows to the loudest lawsuit. They long ago got ride of the employees with common sense.
They can not use the bigger plane because it would let out to much water at once and cause soil erosion that would clog the stream beds for some endangered fish.


‘Ten’ firefighting aircraft. Well I’ve only got ten fingers :o(


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