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Renovated 747 To Help Washington With Aerial Wildfire Support

Courtesy of Washington Department of Natural Resources

Washington state lands officials say they’re planning to diversify the tools they use to fight wildfires from the air.

On Tuesday the Department of Natural Resources held a demonstration in the skies over Moses Lake of a 747 that’s retrofitted to drop water or retardant on fires. The agency bills the plane as a “Global Supertanker”, the world’s largest firefighting air tanker, capable of dropping about 19,000 gallons at a time.

Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz says the new plane will be an important upgrade for quickly attacking fires soon after they start.

The aerial demonstration came on the same day a state Senate committee took testimony on Franz’s proposal to create a fund to pay for wildfire prevention and suppression. She calls it a “comprehensive blueprint to keep the Evergreen State from turning charcoal black.”

“It expands and modernizes our wildfire resources. New firefighters, new aircraft and detection technology and support for local fire districts on the ground, front online. Two, it invests in forest health, restoring natural wildfire resistance to 1.25 million acres of forests. And three, it strengthens communities on the front lines, including direct assistance to homeowners and entire communities to create defensible space," she said.

The bill would allocate about $125 million every two years for forest and wildfire prevention projects. How that money will be raised and where it will come from hasn’t been finalized yet.

The bill recently unanimously passed the House.