U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden has often been critical of how the U.S. Forest Service manages the fleet of large air tankers which has withered by 75 percent from 44 in 2002 to the 11 we have today. We most recently wrote about the shortage of air tankers HERE.
Below is an excerpt from an article in Oregon’s Mail Tribune:
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden intends to hold the U.S. Forest Service’s feet to the fire to increase its fleet of large air tankers under contract.
“The forest fires are getting bigger and the air tanker fleet is getting smaller,” said Wyden, D-Ore., during a news conference Tuesday morning at the Medford air tanker base. “That has left us with some enormous challenges. We’ve already seen some big fires in Arizona and Colorado.
“Despite the enormity of all this, the agency that is most responsible for fighting them, the Forest Service, has allowed the air tanker fleet to shrink,” he said.
The agency had 44 large air tankers under contract in 2006 but now has only 11, said Wyden, chairman of the Senate Forestry Committee.
“And 10 of those average 50 years of age,” Wyden added. “So we have some of these planes that are getting to the point where they belong in museums rather than the sky.”
The Democrat and other senators in the West, including Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, are pushing the agency to modernize the fleet as quickly as possible.
“We now have to deal with an agency back in Washington, D.C., that, in my view, continues to deny the enormity of this problem,” he said.
“It has had its head in the sand on this.”
Thanks go out to Don