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Jan 23, 2013 5:59 PM by Connie Murphy

Military considers joining firefighting sooner

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AP) - The general in charge of the military response to civilian emergencies says officials are weighing whether to make it easier to call in military planes to help fight wildfires.

The head of the U.S. Northern Command, Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, said Wednesday the option of calling up C-130 cargo planes sooner is under consideration as military and civilian leaders get ready for this year's wildfire season.

The Defense Department has eight C-130s that can be equipped to drop thousands of gallons of retardant on wildfires. Under current rules, they can't be called up unless all the civilian and commercial firefighting aircraft are in use or unavailable. Last year's devastating wildfires across the West prompted some civilian officials to question why the C-130s weren't called in sooner.

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