The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, sits by the runways for the city's airport. It's home to the coordination center for eight different agencies. When fire comes to Idaho, air tankers arrive and dispatch from the tarmac. During the second week in July, several 50-year-old Neptune bombers and a couple of newer C-130s arrived to fight fires throughout Idaho, dropping fire retardant in 3,000-gallon batches.

Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, sits by the runways for the city's airport. It's home to the coordination center for eight different agencies. When fire comes to Idaho, air tankers arrive and dispatch from the tarmac. During the second week in July, several 50-year-old Neptune bombers and a couple of newer C-130s arrived to fight fires throughout Idaho, dropping fire retardant in 3,000-gallon batches.

Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek

Inside a Firefighting Tanker

Fighting Fires From the Air
Fighting Fires From the Air

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, sits by the runways for the city's airport. It's home to the coordination center for eight different agencies. When fire comes to Idaho, air tankers arrive and dispatch from the tarmac. During the second week in July, several 50-year-old Neptune bombers and a couple of newer C-130s arrived to fight fires throughout Idaho, dropping fire retardant in 3,000-gallon batches.

Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek
Chuck Wamack
Chuck Wamack

Chuck Wamack, acting director of the National Interagency Coordination Center. "We get beat up in the press a lot," says Womack. "But then we drive through the towns where we work and we see the signs thanking us and we know we're doing the right thing."

Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek
Nozzle
Nozzle

The nozzle that distributes fire retardant from a C-130 air tanker. It is a temporary replacement for the usual side door.

Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek
Hose
Hose

A hose used to fill tankers with fire retardant. The retardant is loaded under pressure, and sprays like an aerosol.

Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek
Safety Check
Safety Check

An Air National Guard member performs safety checks on a C-130.

Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek
Richard Pantusa
Richard Pantusa

Pilot Major Richard Pantusa in a C-130 aircraft.

Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek
Modular Airborne Firefighting System
Modular Airborne Firefighting System

Inside a C-130, a temporary Modular Airborne Firefighting System, which holds and disperses the retardant.

Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek
Crew Seats
Crew Seats

By the Modular Airborne Firefighting System, seats for the operating crew. Two crew members in such seats survived a crash in July that almost totally destroyed a C-130.

Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek
Darlene Mullins
Darlene Mullins

Darlene Mullins, military liaison officer, at the National Interagency Fire Center. Mullins coordinates operations between the Forest Service and the Department of Defense.

Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek
Dan Bunby
Dan Bunby

Master Sergeant Dan Bunby sits under the wing of his C-130 waiting to be called out for a fire.

Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek