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State May Soon Add WWII-era Seaplanes to Firefighting Ranks


The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection may add two giant World War II-era seaplanes to its list of standby air tankers. The so-called Martin Mars flying boats have been fighting fires in Canada for decades, and were tested by California officials back in 2000.

CAL-FIRE's aviation director Mike Padilla says his department is always looking for effective tools available to fight large wildfires.

Padilla : These larger air tankers provide us with that extra punch that we need when the fire gets beyond what the smaller initial crews can handle. It doesn't happen often and sometimes you wonder why we have these aircraft around but they certainly pay for themselves when you stop a fire early on and keep the acreage down.

The planes have a wingspan slightly longer than a jumbo jet and can carry two-and-a-half times more water than the largest federal air tanker. The 60-year-old planes could be added to the agency's standby list next year.

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