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Special airtanker goes to work right away on wildfires

PHOENIX — One of the nation’s two DC-10 Very Large Airtankers deployed from California to assist in fighting wildfires had a busy first day.

Tanker 911, which will be based in Mesa, spent most of Tuesday airborne and dumping retardant on the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso, N.M., the 257 fire near Superior and a wildfire burning near the Grand Canyon.

The plane, which once flew for Continental Airlines, can be loaded and ready for takeoff in less than 20 minutes, and it has an operating radius of about 500 nautical miles. With that turnaround time, Tanker 911 can make as many as six runs in a day.

The DC-10 was used on last year’s Wallow Fire, which eventually became the largest wildfire in Arizona history, burning more than 800 square miles.

The DC-10 aerial firefighting aircraft made its fire- fighting debut in 2006 on the Sawtooth fire in San Bernardino County, Calif.

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