Bolivia’s President, Evo Morales, says he requested the jumbo jet after flames from neighboring Brazil spilled over into his country’s rainforest. The retrofitted jet left Sacramento yesterday morning and arrived at Viru Viru International Airport in Santa Cruz de la Sierra at 1:37 this morning (Friday) local time.
The 747, along with 6 helicopters and 10 light planes, will attack flames from the air. Morales says he also deployed an additional 500 troops to act as firefighters. The Boeing 747 has been designed to hold more than 18,000 gallons of fire gel, fire retardant, foam or water at a maximum speed of 600 miles per hour – it can also deploy to anywhere in the world and fly for 10 hours before landing for fuel.
The fires in Brazil’s rainforest have been going for at least 3 weeks and recently flames spilled over into Bolivia. So far this year, there have been 72,843 fires in the Amazon, that’s 80% more than this time a year ago. This is a satellite view of the fires provided by the Brazilian government.
The cause of these fires has become one of the top controversies of South America. Environmental groups claim Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has cut back environmental oversight and is encouraging deforestation. Bolsonaro shot back this week and said because of budget cuts to nongovernmental organizations the fires in the Amazon may have been caused by these NGO’s to bring international criticism to his government.
Somewhere in the middle - Brazilian Government researcher Alberto Setzer told Reuters “The dry season creates the favorable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.” Other researchers and scientists say they agree adding, human activities — farming, mining and drilling — are now exacerbating the situation. But whatever the cause It would seem the Supertanker is one of the best firefighting tools available.
The Supertanker is under an active contract with CalFire for the 2019 fire season and had to grant permission for the Air Bomber to fly to South America.
Photo credits: Steve Gregory; Global Supertanker