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DNR's new firefighting planes are faster than its old water bombers

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In the height of wildfire season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has unveiled a new fleet of airplanes that will be the first line of defense against wildfires.

The planes got a lot of action last week as high winds and dry conditions fueled wildfires across the state.

The DNR began leasing several Fire Boss planes from Aero Spray, based in Appleton, Minnesota, after putting its two vintage CL-215 water bombers on the auction block earlier this year.

The lease runs during the peak of wildfire season – from late March through June.

Four of the six planes will have floats on them so they can land on lakes and scoop up water, pilot Jesse Weaver told MPR News, and two other single engine air tankers that fill up while landed, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

These new planes, which will be maintained by Aero Spray, don't need as much maintenance as the CL-215 water bombers, and although they won't be able to hold as much water the planes are faster than the older planes, the Star Tribune says.

Four of the planes will be permanently stationed in Bemidji, Brainerd, Ely and Hibbing, the Duluth News Tribune says.

The contracts for these planes will save taxpayers around $700,000 a year, MPR notes.

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