Report: Put Water Scoopers at Core of Firefighting

By MEAD GRUVER | August 1, 2012

A think tank recommends a much different strategy for using airplanes to fight wildfires than the one being pursued by the U.S. Forest Service.

A report out Monday by the RAND Corp. says most large airplanes the Forest Service uses to fight wildfires should be water scoopers. A water scooper is a plane that skims across an open body of water and scoops up water to drop on wildfires.

Right now, the Forest Service doesn’t use water scoopers to fight wildfires, relying instead on planes that drop fire retardant chemicals.

The Forest Service contracted RAND to study the optimal combination of planes and helicopters to fight wildfires. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell says he disagrees with the suggestion to contract water scoopers instead of planes that drop fire retardant.

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