"You can't stop a fire without a part" -- lost manufacturing means problems with fighting wildfires
QUESTION: How often does the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) warn about the consequences of a lost industrial base?
ANSWER: Not often enough, apparently.
The Associated Press is reporting that the sole U.S. manufacturer of a device to spray airborne fire retardant is no longer in business. This means that while Air National Guard units currently possess Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems (MAFFS), new MAFFS systems are no longer being made. This has led to concerns that future efforts to fight wildfires in the western U.S. may be hampered.
From the AP report:
The Modular Airborne Firefighting System is a bus-sized device that can be shoved into the belly of a cargo plane and then used to spray retardant, or slurry, at 3,000 gallons in less than 5 seconds. The $4.9 million device’s only manufacturer, Sacramento, Calif.-based Aero Union, went out of business in August, and no other company has replaced it. Critical spare parts also are no longer being made.
MAFFS are currently used by three National Guard and one reserve unit in Wyoming, Colorado, North Carolina and California. Last year, MAFFS were used on wildfires in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oregon and Mexico. They’ve been utilized this year to fight wildfires in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota.
Thankfully, the Forest Service has "stockpiled enough major parts, can source many smaller parts, and can mend the biggest parts no longer being made to keep the system running," according to the Forest Service's Scott Fisher.
But in the the long-run, the problem is that parts wear out. With no new MAFFS systems being made, wildfires may become more of a threat in the future.
Photo by flickr user T i q s Â©. Used following Creative Commons license guidelines.
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