Canada's Super Scoopers Are Back In LA. But As Fire Season Gets Worse, Why Don't We Buy Our Own?

(Courtesy Kathryn Barger via Twitter)

Every fall for the past 25 years, Los Angeles County borrows two super scoopers — those giant yellow and red firefighting planes — from Canada.

Each plane can get in the air in five minutes and carry 1,600 gallons of water. The county spends $8 million for two of them and their crews to stay here from September through November. But as the fire season gets longer, many officials now believe that restricted time frame just doesn't work and there's new pressure to find a year-round solution.

The biggest fire in California's history was sparked in July this year, before the super scoopers came. And the second biggest — last year's Thomas fire — burned in December, after we typically give them back. So does the county have more permanent plans?

"The simple answer is no," said County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, explaining that we just can't afford it, "because it's so expensive to maintain these (planes)."

Barger estimates the annual maintenance alone is $4 million per aircraft. Then add pilots, crew, plus the cost to actually buy one, and it's beyond the county budget.

But Barger wants the state to pick up the slack. She says there have been conversations about how the state could fund it, but they're still in the beginning stages.


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