Even with two days advanced warning and years of planning, our government still couldn't prepare a response to Hurricane Katrina. In Arizona, we're facing the driest winter on record and most expert's believe we're looking at the worst fire season in our history and yet we're not prepared to prevent the destruction of our state.
When the February Fire was first discovered two weeks ago, it was already 80 acres and the TV news in Phoenix said we had two fire fighting helicopters on the way to begin to fight the fire. Two days later ground crews were in place. Three to four days after the fire was discovered we had two slurry planes, one flown in from Arkansas, and the other from Montana, to join in the fight. Finally after ten days the fire was controlled and 4200 acres were burned. What's wrong with this picture?
We need a rapid response air support to hit the fire when it's first discovered, when it's still possible to contain the fire, until the ground forces and additional aircraft can arrive to extinguish the fire. Imagine Payson, Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff battling fires this summer with the current equipment, and slow government response. It's time to take fire seriously and take advantage of modern technology to protect our beautiful Arizona.
I've discovered a former A-10 "Warthog" pilot, Ed Herlik, who has been trying for 12 years to get the government to test the use of retrofitted A-10's as fast response, highly accurate slurry planes. Ed knows the abilities and limitations of the A-10 intimately, and he believes this aircraft can turn the tide on these destructive fires in their early stages. His website is www.firehogs.com
And for those who are concerned, contact the Governor and your elected representatives and tell them to test the possibilities of these aircraft. Imagine squadrons of these A-10's hitting a fire within hours of it being discovered.
We don't get destructive hurricanes, but our potential for devastating firestorms, which can have longer lasting effects, is almost guaranteed. This is not an area to pinch pennies. Let's support our firefighters with the best technology available. We have hundreds of A-10's "mothballed" near Tucson, and trained pilots willing to fly over Arizona to protect our forests and cities. Let's not wait for Congressional hearings to do the right thing.
Les Graff, Phoenix