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Jul 2, 2010 2:37 PM by David Ortiviz, News First 5

Fewer slurry bombers being used to fight wildfires

Fewer slurry bombers are being used to fight wildfires across the West. The number of slurry bombers has dropped to 17 from 44 since 2004. By 2012, the remainder of the aging fleet is set to be retired because they're too old and costly to keep care of.

Replacing the tankers would cost $2.5 billion and so far there's no funding to do that. Until funding is secured, the U.S. Forest Service says it will rely on heavy helicopters and single-engine air tankers to fight fires.

The crunch comes as larger fires have been burning for longer periods in the West.

The number of fires burning on 1,000 acres or more has quadrupled in the last 23 years. The Colorado State Forest Service says the average fire now burns six times more land.

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