Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sen. Udall urges fire preparation

Posted By on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 3:45 PM

click to enlarge The Black Forest Fire during its early hours in 2013. - STEVE AND MARY SNYDER
  • Steve and Mary Snyder
  • The Black Forest Fire during its early hours in 2013.

Despite all the hubbub in Washington, D.C. about the sequester, military cuts and a proposal to raise the minimum wage. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, hasn't forgotten that the 2014 fire season is upon us.

In letters sent today, Udall urged the Air Force and Forest Service "to swiftly repurpose military aircraft to help fight future wildfires in Colorado and across the West," his office said in a news release.

Udall serves on the Senate Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources Committees.

The news release notes that excess military aircraft — seven Coast Guard-operated C-130Hs — were transferred to the Forest Service through the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.

"We are in an era of modern mega-fires and my state has repeatedly broken records in recent years for the largest and most devastating fires in Colorado's history," Udall wrote in the letter to the Forest Service. "Projections for future fire seasons and the volume of hazardous fuels on the landscape make me extremely concerned."

"Air tankers cannot fight fire alone, but they are critical firefighting resources that can give firefighters time and prevent small blazes from becoming catastrophic wildfires," he wrote. "I am requesting a report that describes the expected timeline for the completion of those transfers and an estimated date on which each C-130H will be employable as a firefighting asset, as well as their expected lifecycle and an analysis of what could possibly delay this timeline."

Read Udall's letter here to the Air Force.

His letter to the Forest Service and Department of Agriculture is here.

Udall has been an outspoken champion in trying to update and strengthen the federal air tanker fleet, including through the transfer of excess military aircraft. He recently pressed the U.S. Forest Service to quickly adopt the Government Accountability Office's recommendations on how to upgrade its air tanker fleet. He also recently introduced a bill to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to work with states and localities on wildfire mitigation projects, the news release said.

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