Forest Service Activates Tanker Base

Forest Service Activates Tanker Base

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- The Forest Service has activated its air-tanker base at Hill Air Force Base for the wildfire season.

A tanker was expected to arrive at the base Thursday, and a contingent of Smoke Jumpers, who will work out of Ogden again this year, is expected to arrive next week.

Jim Thomas, Fire Management Officer for the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, said the plane being sent to Hill is a P2V, a retired military plane capable of carrying between 2,000 and 3,000 gallons of retardant.

The fire danger is relatively low now, but Northern Utah Fire Management Officer Bob Tonioli said Wednesday that will change soon.

"I was up on the mountain yesterday (over Monte Cristo) going over to Rich County and there's 2 inches of duff on the road already." Duff is dry dust, normally not that thick on back roads until late in the summer, he said.

"The Bureau of Land Management lands, all on the lower elevations, are all dried out," he said. Spring rains in May caused rapid growth of grasses that are now turning brown.

"If you look above Kaysville and Layton they've got all that cheat grass and rye grass that's really browning out," he said. "And if you look along the Interstate, it looks like wheat ready to be cut. It's like that along the railroad tracks and if you get a train throwing sparks through Weber Canyon there's going to be fire all the way up to the top. There's not a fire station in the county that could get there in time to stop it."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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