Fire commanders say they are often pressured to order planes and helicopters into action on major fires even when the aircraft won't do any good. Such pressure has resulted in needless and costly air operations, experienced fire managers said in interviews.
The reason for the interference, they say, is that aerial drops of water and retardant make good television. They're a highly visible way for political leaders to show they're doing everything possible to quell a wildfire, even if it entails overriding the judgment of incident commanders on the ground.
Firefighters have developed their own vernacular for such spectacles. They call them "CNN drops."