Air Attack Is a Lifesaver During Fire Season

As wildfire season heats up in the western United States, communities on the front lines are relying on aircraft — from nimble helicopters with night vision to lumbering tankers that date back to World War II — to keep conflagrations from morphing into catastrophes. Air attacks are often the fastest and sometimes the only way to fight the blazes that are threatening countless homes and lives during this dry, hot beginning to the summer. But crucial as they are, many of these firefighting planes aren't exactly state-of-the-art. Some of the air tankers — which dump water or flame retardant on fires — are more than a half-century old.