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A C-130E MAFFS drops fire retardant on a California blaze in 2003. (USAF Photo)

PHOENIX -- They're one of the main tools used on wildfires but right now United States Air Force planes are parked at bases, essentially in retirement.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said it's time to get those planes in the air again because Southern California is burning and Arizona may not be far behind.

"There's no doubt that we are at great risk. This is probably one of the earliest starts to a fire season we've seen," McCain said. "All of us should be concerned. We have been in a long-term drought."

McCain said the transfer of military aircraft to agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service was part of last year's defense bill.

"These military aircraft need to be transferred in a timely fashion to make sure the Forest Service is never short. They are the first line of defense on wildfires."

One likely place the military air tankers would be stationed is Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport.

Jim Cross, Reporter

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