On March 25 I sent emails to four Senators, one congresswoman, and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. I took advantage of my right, and my responsibility, as a citizen to express my opinion on the pitiful state of our air tanker fleet. And I was not shy, which will not surprise the regular readers of Wildfire Today, about providing my analysis of how we got to this point, with the fleet only a shell of what it was 10 years ago, reduced by 75 percent. The land management agencies, and especially the U.S. Forest Service, own this debacle.
In addition to the Senate committee, which holds regular hearings in which wildfire issues are discussed, the recipients of my letters included Senators Ron Wyden and Lisa Murkowski.
It is probably a coincidence, but on March 27 and 28 numerous media outlets ran stories saying that four senators sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking the agency to review “the nation’s depleted fleet of firefighting aircraft and the remedies needed in the face of increasingly severe fire seasons.”
The senators that signed the letter were Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.; and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
If there are going to be any significant improvements in the air tanker fleet, it will have to be a political solution. The land management agencies, and especially the U.S. Forest Service, have proven that their strategy is “sit on our hands and make no tough decisions”.
If you have an opinion on this issue, let your senators and representatives know.
Here are some excerpts from the Associated Press article that appeared in newspapers and web sites around the country.
A group of Western senators says the U.S. Forest Service may not be moving quickly enough to build up and replace the fleet of aging planes that drop fire retardant on wildfires.
The senators asked the Government Accountability Office on Tuesday to evaluate whether the Forest Service has done a good job of analyzing the types and numbers of aircraft needed, the cheapest way to get them, new technologies, and where the planes will be based.
“Concerns have increasingly been raised that the federal agencies responsible for responding to wildland fires _ the Forest Service and four agencies in the Department of Interior _ do not have the appropriate number and mix of aircraft that will be needed for wildland fire suppression operations,” said the letter signed by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
Last month, the Forest Service adopted a new strategy for replacing the fleet with newer, faster and more cost-effective planes.
Wyden complained that the Forest Service’s strategy is woefully lacking in specifics that would allow comparisons of different types and costs of aircraft so choices can be made. Meanwhile, a “perfect storm” is shaping up of dry weather and thick stands of forests that have not been thinned.
“Trying to get these tankers and the fleet ready for serious fire seasons seems to be almost the longest running battle since the Trojan war,” he said. “The West doesn’t have the luxury of just sitting around while everything goes up in smoke.”
- USFS to pay for another air tanker study
- Will 12 air tankers be enough this year?
- CAL FIRE letter to USFS about air tanker strategy
- USFS reduces the number of helicopters on national contracts
- Forest Service Chief testifies about wildfire budget and air tankers
- The Washington Post, on aging air tankers
- Followup on crack found on P2V air tanker
- Unfilled air tanker orders increased in 2011
- Aero Union is appealing the cancellation of their air tanker contract
Thanks go out to the numerous people who let us know about the article.