Fuel Shortage Could Ground Firefighting Aircraft

FILE - In this July 2, 2021, file photo a DC-10 air tanker drops retardant while battling the Salt Fire near the Lakehead community of Unincorporated Shasta County, Calif. Airport officials facing jet fuel shortages are concerned they'll have to wave off fire retardant bombers and helicopters when wildfire season heats up, potentially endangering surrounding communities. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
FILE – In this July 2, 2021, file photo a DC-10 air tanker drops retardant while battling the Salt Fire near the Lakehead community of Unincorporated Shasta County, Calif. Airport officials facing jet fuel shortages are concerned they’ll have to wave off fire retardant bombers and helicopters when wildfire season heats up, potentially endangering surrounding communities. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Airport officials facing jet fuel shortages are concerned they’ll have to wave off planes and helicopters that drop fire retardants during what could be a ferocious wildfire season, potentially endangering surrounding communities.

Sporadic shortages at some tanker bases in Oregon and Utah have already been reported. The worry is that multiple bases go dry simultaneously during what is shaping up to be a very busy wildfire season in the U.S. West. Tanker bases in Arizona, where many large fires are burning, have also had jet fuel supply issues in the last month.

“We haven’t run into that before,” said Jessica Gardetto, a National Interagency Fire Center spokeswoman in Boise, Idaho, and a former wildland firefighter. “It’s a scary thought, with all the shortages going on right now.”

It’s not clear if jet fuel supplies and delivery systems can be bolstered in time for this wildfire season to avoid potential problems keeping firefighting aircraft aloft if multiple large fires break out around the West.

Airport officials, aviation supply companies and jet fuel transport companies said jet fuel demand declined sharply and supply chains atrophied during the coronavirus pandemic. They have yet to bounce back in the Western U.S. even as the economy zooms ahead and more passengers flock to airports for long-delayed trips.

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Source: Keith Ridler, Associated Press