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BC tankers assist US fire

The BC government has come to the aid of firefighting efforts in Washington State.

Five bombers were sent to the border yesterday, (Monday) to help with a wildfire burning near the town of Tonasket.

The fire, which was detected Monday afternoon east of the town has grown to about 1,000 acres (404 hectares) in size.

One home has been destroyed.

"We have the Northwest Contract which allows for the mutual sharing of firefighting resources across jurisdictions," says Navi Saini with the Provincial Wildfire Branch out of Victoria.

"It's an agreement between the western provinces, territories, the northwest states and Alaska. The cost for those missions were covered by the receiving jurisdiction (Washington State).

Saini says the bombers do not physically land in the US meaning they fill up with retardant in BC, drop it around the fire, fly back to pick up more and head back for another run.

She was not sure how many missions each of the five planes flew on Monday.

"It was about 125,000 litres of retardant that was dropped yesterday."

As for the availability of the tankers when so many fires continue to burn in BC, Saini says people need to remember that, while important to fighting a fire, it doesn't make sense to continue using air tankers on a fire.

"Once the retardant lines are in place it's really the hard work of the crews on the ground that actually put that fire out. People like to keep seeing tankers on a fire but that's not cost effective or efficient," says Saini.

She adds retardant only helps slow down the progress of a fire - it's not a substance that will put out a fire like water can.

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