Debate over use of jumbo bomber as wildfires rage in West

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A company with a Boeing 747 bomber that can drop more than 19,000 gallons (72,000 liters) of suppressant on wildfires says federal officials are keeping it grounded, putting homes and ground-based firefighters at risk.

Officials with Global SuperTanker Services filed a protest with the U.S. Forest Service late last month contesting a contract limiting firefighting aircraft to 5,000 gallons (18,900 liters).

The limit appears to conflict with the Forest Service's 2012 air tanker modernization strategy report identifying air tankers capable of dropping more than 8,000 gallons (30,300 liters) as a part of its firefighting effort.

The Forest Service declined to comment.

Watchdog and firefighter advocacy groups say the agency might be trying to cut firefighting costs that have been using up its budget as wildfires have grown increasingly destructive in recent decades.