SACRAMENTO, CA July 7, 2018 – The Global SuperTanker is expected to be deployed in California today after being carded by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). The Global SuperTanker’s only previous domestic deployments were with CAL FIRE in 2017, and it has undergone the joint CAL FIRE and U.S. Forest Service carding process – essentially, approval to fight fires in 2018 – over the last two weeks. The carding is temporary, pending resolution of a data software issue that has unexpectedly delayed the process over recent days. The Global SuperTanker was in California and completing the carding process when it signed a call when needed contract with the State of Colorado earlier this week.
Jim Wheeler, CEO of Global SuperTanker Services, made the following statement regarding the SuperTanker’s activation with CAL FIRE:
“We thank CAL FIRE and the USFS for their tremendous professionalism and diligence throughout the carding process and look forward working with the team in 2018. While the SuperTanker’s home is in Colorado, we serve the entire nation and even the entire world. It goes without saying that we wish the SuperTanker could be in two places at once, fighting alongside the brave men and women working around the clock to protect people and property. The severity and multiple locations of fires this early in the season is another indication that the country needs additional air assets in order to fight fires effectively and efficiently.
“The nature of call when needed contracts is that we go where we are called first. In this instance, that’s in California, fighting fires managed by CAL FIRE. Once the deployment is completed, we will be available to assist firefighters in Colorado or elsewhere should the SuperTanker’s services be needed.”
Frequently Asked Questions about the SuperTanker’s current CAL FIRE activation
The Global SuperTanker received a temporary card by CAL FIRE late on Friday, July 6 and was immediately called into action by CAL FIRE on Saturday, July 7. To explain why the SuperTanker is being used in California and not Colorado, we have provided the below answers to frequently asked questions. These comments can be attributed to Jim Wheeler, CEO of Global SuperTanker Services, if needed. We will continue to keep you updated as this fluid situation develops.
Why is the SuperTanker being used in California and not Colorado, where it is based?
The SuperTanker is a Colorado-based company but we work around the country and around the world without prejudice for location. Under our renewed contract with CAL FIRE, we began the “carding” – or approval – process last week, which would also pave the way for the plane to fight fires for USFS and other authorized entities, including the State of Colorado. The SuperTanker was in California and undergoing the carding process when the call when needed (CWN) contract was signed with the State of Colorado. The carding process is primarily driven by CAL FIRE, so the plane can be used to fight fires in California. This was part of a renewal process with CAL FIRE, which was responsible for the SuperTanker’s only domestic deployments to date.
As many are aware, the carding process was delayed due to an unforeseen software data issue, for which USFS required additional information. While that issue – which is not related to safety or performance – is not yet completely resolved, CAL FIRE issued the SuperTanker a temporary card to get it in the air to fight some of the multiple fires occurring across the state. As soon as we were carded, we were available to CAL FIRE and they in turn activated us.
Working in California isn’t a judgment on the severity or intensity of a fire; both states face serious and immediate fire challenges. We wish we could be in two places in once. But with only one plane, unfortunately that is not the case.
Does a temporary card mean that the SuperTanker can only work for CAL FIRE and not other entities, such as USFS or the State?
Under the temporary card, the SuperTanker can work where contracted and called; however, a CWN contract is subject to first activation. Since CAL FIRE provided the card, it immediately activated the SuperTanker. Under our contract with CAL FIRE, we are obligated to begin service when called.
While we believed the SuperTanker was ready to fly days ago and the software issue would have no impact on the safe and effective operation of the aircraft, we respect that carding is ultimately a decision for those in charge of the carding process. CAL FIRE made the determination Friday night, July 6, that the SuperTanker was ready to go with a temporary carding, subject to completion of the software issue, and that our services were needed immediately.
How long will the SuperTanker be in California?
The SuperTanker will work in California as long as CAL FIRE needs our services. These deployments are dependent on many factors – weather conditions, containment, available assets – that are impossible to predict. It is our understanding that CAL FIRE is currently stretched to the limit with its current assets, but we do not know how things will change in the coming days or weeks. One of the reasons wildfire is so terrifying is because it is unpredictable..
Why was the contract with the State of Colorado signed but not immediately initiated, given the current fires in the state?
We have been working closely with the State for some time to sign the CWN contract, so the signed contract didn’t simply materialize overnight because of the current fire situation. It’s important to remember that a CWN lays out the parameters for when the SuperTanker’s services are needed and the SuperTanker is available. Though the SuperTanker may not be available in the present moment due to its activation in California and minor unresolved carding issues with USFS, nothing precludes us from working with Colorado in the near future. We hope to have the opportunity to work with our friends and neighbors, should the need arise.
Are the CAL FIRE and State of Colorado contracts similar? Is cost a factor in the SuperTanker’s deployment decisions?
While we don’t release contract details publicly, each contract we sign is unique. Each is negotiated in advance and designed to ensure that the authorizing entity and the SuperTanker are able to work together under reasonable and acceptable terms for both parties.
Cost is not the reason we are currently in California, as opposed to Colorado. It’s simply a matter of approval and availability, and which authorized entity contacts us first.
Why was the SuperTanker not available earlier? Would being carded earlier have enabled it to fight fires in Colorado?
Many have followed the long journey the SuperTanker has taken to ensure it is available to fight fires across the country. We appreciate the strong support and words of encouragement we have received from our neighbors across Colorado.
Over the last two years, the bureaucratic obstacles we have needed to overcome to be available to do what we do best are too numerous to detail in this space. In fact, we still face obstacles today. But suffice it to say that the SuperTanker and our dedicated team have worked tirelessly to get us to this point. While we did everything in our power to get the plane ready and available in advance of fire season, unforeseen challenges prevented that from becoming a reality. We hope these obstacles are soon a thing of the past and the SuperTanker does not experience any additional delays for future deployments.
Global SuperTanker’s B747-400, The Spirit of John Muir, incorporates a patented system capable of delivering single or multiple payload drops aggregating 19,200 gallons of water, fire retardant, or suppressant. These fluids can be released at variable rates from the plane’s pressurized tanks, producing a tailored response to the firefighting need. This unique ability allows it to make as many as eight drops in a single flight, while other aircraft, due to capacity, must repeatedly land and refuel and reload retardant to achieve the same results. The Spirit of John Muir is the world’s youngest, most modern, and fastest VLAT).
With a flying speed of 600 miles per hour, the Spirit of John Muir can reach any part of the globe in 20 hours or less or nearly any part of the U.S. in less than three hours. During a deployment in Chile in 2017, the SuperTanker set a world record for liquid dropped in a single day by a land-based aerial tanker at 134,400 gallons. In addition to Chile and California in 2017, the SuperTanker fought fires in Israel in November of 2016. CAL FIRE is not the only entity with which the SuperTanker has a contract; It also has CWN contracts with the Oregon Department of Forestry, the State of Colorado, several cities/counties in Colorado, and is currently applying for a contract with USFS.