The planes can be fitted with a system of tanks and pipes called the Modular Airborne Firefighting System or MAFFS. It can drop 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in seconds.
The planes can be activated for firefighting duty if the rest of the private and government firefighting fleet is in use or unavailable. When on firefighting duty, the planes are under Northern Command, which is responsible for defending the U.S. and assisting civilian authorities in emergencies.
All eight had been dispatched to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs last week to fight Colorado wildfires, including the 28-square-mile Waldo Canyon Fire. That fire killed two people and destroyed nearly 350 houses. The fire was 55 percent contained.
Among the fires elsewhere in the West:
— Utah: Fire commanders say Utah's largest wildfire has consumed more than 150 square miles and shows no sign of burning itself out. Hundreds of firefighters are trying to hold the Clay Springs fire from advancing on the ranching towns of Scipio and Mills on the edge of Utah's west desert. The fire has destroyed one summer home and threatens 75 others. The fire was 48 percent contained on Sunday.
— Montana: More evacuation notices have been issued in the southeastern part of the state after a 265-square-mile wildfire jumped a highway overnight and was spreading to the southeast Monday. The state has 10 large wildfires, more than any other state.