Official: 19 Firefighters Possibly Saved Had Air Tankers Responded

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"It's my responsibility to move forward to make sure that we have the contracted aircraft that we need," Tidwell said.

The Forest Service has proposed spending more than $1 billion to buy new military planes but hasn't won over budget crunchers at the White House or on Capitol Hill.

Instead, the service is relying on two converted DC-10 passenger jets operated by contractor 10 Tanker to battle one of the worst fire seasons in years, in terms of lives and fatalities, which have killed at least 25 this year. Investigators are still working on the final report on the Yarnell fire, and no one may ever know if the tankers would have made a difference to the 19 dead Hotshots.

"On any given day when we get hundreds of fires started on any given day we will never have enough aircraft for every single fire. So there always has to be priorities set," Tidwell said.

Paxon said that it's become clear wildland firefighters cannot wait for Washington, given their "extreme" need for large airtankers to support them as they dig fire lines and clear brush to deny fast-moving fires fuel.

"We need them now," he said.

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