White House cuts to the Air Force’s fleet of firefighting and transport aircraft have limited the ability of officials to contain the wildfires sweeping across Colorado.
A C-130 fitted with the Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) can drop 3,000 gallons of fire-retardant material in 5 seconds, and reload in just 15 minutes. This tempo is crucial to containing wildfires like the one devastating Colorado Springs. However, of a current fleet of nearly 380 C-130s, only eight can be fitted with the MAFFS—and four of them are already in the skies over Colorado. …
All this raises concerns about President Obama’s defense budget, which cuts 65 C-130s from the fleet over the next four years. While that will leave 318 C-130s, the demands on the fleet are not shrinking in Afghanistan or other places.
Colorado firefighters have been unable to control the blaze on the ground. They made progress last week, containing more than half of the wildfire. That progress was soon reversed after the fire "blew through containment lines" thanks to strong winds feeding the flames. The fire is now only 5 percent contained.
More than 35,000 residents have fled the area, as the fire nears the United States Air Force Academy.
Obama will visit Colorado on Friday.