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Can aging fleet of tankers handle the load?

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FRESNO, Calif. — The blaze near Yosemite National Park had incinerated scores of acres and was spreading fast. It was time, federal officials decided, to attack it from the air with all the resources at their command.

As the nation’s armada of air tankers began landing at a staging area nearby, it was clear that this was a fleet from another era.

The planes showed their age. Propellers coughed to a stop and smoke spewed from their piston engines. Many…

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