Sporadic shortages at some tanker bases in Oregon and Utah have already been reported. Multiple bases might go dry simultaneously, during a very busy wildfire season in the US.
“We haven’t run into that before,” said Jessica Gardetto, a National Interagency Fire Center Spokeswoman in Boise, Idaho. “It’s a scary thought, with all the shortages going on right now.”
According to Associated Press, 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 US, even as the economy zooms ahead and more passengers flock to airports for long-delayed trips.
Short supply for wildfire operations
Hundreds of aircraft are used to fight wildfires each year, and most of the nation’s large retardant bombers are jets. Turboprop retardant bombers also use jet fuel. They lay down strips of red fire retardant ahead of approaching flames in support of ground crews who are more likely to hold a fire line after a retardant bomber has made a drop. Most firefighting helicopters also use the jet fuel that authorities worry could be in short supply for aerial wildfire operations going forward.
Chris Kunkle, Vice President of Operations for the Central Coast Jet Center in Santa Maria, California, said: “In the blink of an eye, we can have a fire here within our response area that can bring in one to three DC-10s and a bunch of variable-sized air tankers. We can go from a couple thousand gallons a day to 50,000 to 60,000 gallons.”
For more on aerial firefighting, you can see the AirMed&Rescue firefighting roundtable from 20 July 2021, with experts from Erickson, Dauntless Air, and Intterra.