Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is calling on the Forest Service to speed up efforts to modernize its fleet of air tankers used to fight wildfires.
Wyden chairs the Senate’s subcommittee on public lands. He made his remarks in Madras Thursday during a visit to Butler Aircraft. That’s one of the many companies under contract with the government to fight wildfire.
Wyden says only 1 in 4 Forest Service tankers flying in 2006 are still in the air. He says that’s especially alarming considering that fires in recent years have tended to burn larger areas, at hotter temperatures.
“And yet the Forest Service and people back in Washington D.C. really seem to have really be in denial when it comes to taking bolder action to replace and modernize the aviation fleet.,” Wyden said.
According to an agency spokesman, the Forest Service is making progress toward updating its tanker fleet. The agency is planning to bring 3 new “next generation” air tankers online for this year’s fire season.
The Forest Service plans to add about ten more tankers next year.