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Sen. McCain urges use of military aircraft on wildfires

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.

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About the Author

Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite food: Steak and shrimp, and any food on campouts.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Favorite news memory: The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. The 2007 Southern California Firestorm and being at Sky Harbor Airport when the first plane lifted off several days after 9-11. Seeing the American flag on the tail of the Salt Lake City-bound Delta airliner as it took off still gives me goosebumps.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges -- which was outstanding --, Lonesome Dove.

First job: Spinning records at KLER Radio Orofino, Idaho 1980.

First concert: KISS/Cheap Trick 1977 Spokane, WA Coliseum.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, The University of Montana Grizzlies and Texas Rangers.

Outside interests: Sports, camping, fishing, traveling.


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