Democratic News

Washington, D.C.Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., praised the U.S. Forest Service for its announcement that it plans to award contracts for seven next generation air tankers to help fight wildfires.

“These air tankers are vital to helping firefighters on the ground combat ever-more destructive wildfires that threaten communities across the West year after year,” Wyden said. “I’m urging the administration to get these planes ready to fly as soon as possible to provide crucial air support in the face of another potentially record fire season.”

The contracts will help the Forest Service transition its fleet from its older, “legacy” air tankers, which have been in use for decades. The agency has said it is working to bring the seven next generation air tankers into use within the next year.

Three new air tankers will come from Oregon-based companies. The Hillsboro-based Aero Air will receive contracts for two air tankers, and Coulson Aircrane (USA), Inc., which has an office in Portland, will receive one. These companies, along with the three other recipients, were awarded the next generation air tanker contracts based on past performance, experience and economic value.

Air tankers have been effective in slowing the growth of small fires until firefighters can reach the fires to extinguish them.

Last year, Wyden was joined by Senators Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Mark Udall, D-Colo., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in getting legislation passed to speed the contracting of new air tankers. This year is predicted to be potentially another record-breaking wildfire season.