Reid Leads Passage Of Bill To Allow Forest Service To Acquire New Air Tankers Congress, the Forest Service, and communities sensitive to fire have known for a decade that we need to retire old air tankers.
BigNews.Biz - Jun 10,2012 - Reid Leads Passage Of Bill To Allow Forest Service To Acquire New Air Tankers
Washington, D.C.- Nevada Senator Harry Reid released the following statement into the Congressional record following passage of legislation which would allow the Forest Service to quickly acquire at least seven new large air tankers to fight wildfires during the 2012 and 2013 fire seasons. This legislation comes after the tragic deaths this past weekend of two Forest Service contractors fighting wildfires in Nevada:
“I rise to discuss the importance of updating our aging and diminishing fleet of air tankers for emergency wildfire suppression operations.
Congress, the Forest Service, and communities sensitive to fire have known for a decade that we need to retire old air tankers. The tragic deaths this past weekend of two Forest Service contractors in an air tanker crash, and a crash landing at the Minden-Tahoe Airport near Carson City, remind us that further delay is unacceptable.
First, I would like to express my deep sorrow over the deaths of the two Forest Service contractors. Todd Tompkins and Ronnie Edwin Chambless were killed on Sunday as they dropped flame retardant from their P-2V7 heavy air tanker on the White Rock fire. At its highest point, the fire was ravaging nearly 5,000 acres in western Utah and southeastern Nevada, including sagebrush and other grasses in Lincoln County, Nevada.
Between the two of them, Captain Tompkins and First Officer Chambless had been flying for nearly three decades, including over a decade fighting fires. Captain Tompkins said he liked his work because it helped save communities and lives. Sadly, when he went into that mission on Sunday, he could not save his own.
My state has incurred much devastation from wildfires in recent years. These blazes have destroyed homes, displaced families and businesses, and wiped out both critical wildlife habitat and productive grazing lands.
Of course, without the brave work of the air tanker pilots dispatched to battle these fires, the damage could have been much worse. It is therefore critical that we help ensure these courageous men and women have the tools they need to conduct their important public safety work and preserve their own lives.
Today, we are asking for unanimous consent for Senate passage of legislation introduced by Senators Wyden and Bingaman, S. 3621, which would allow the Forest Service to quickly complete the contracting process for acquiring at least seven new large air tankers to fight wildfires during the 2012 and 2013 fire seasons.
The Forest Service is contending with an aging fleet of aircraft. The agency is working with planes that were designed for combat in the Korean War. Finding parts for tankers a half-century old is difficult, leading them to be grounded for long periods of times when repairs are needed.
The Forest Service has said it needs between 18 and 28 new air tankers for optimal response to emergency response to wildfires. Today, however, there are only nine Forest Service tankers deemed airworthy to fight fires during what is