Legislators urge USFS to OK updated airtankers to help with Mont. wildfires
Congressman Greg Gianforte and U.S. Senator Steve Daines today sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Chief Vicki Christiansen urging the USFS to move forward with “Next Generation 3.0” contracts which will provide faster and more cost-effective airtankers to handle the complex wildland fire environment.
“Dry conditions, a buildup of hazardous fuels and many other factors resulted in over 50,000 fires nationwide this year,” the letter states. “The Forest Service is the primary Federal agency responsible for providing large airtankers to the wildland fire community… In order to ensure the Forest Service and the broader wildland fire community will have sufficient airtankers available in the future, we strongly urge the agency to issue the solicitation for the Next Generation 3.0 contracts without any further delay.”
The “Next Generation 3.0” airtankers will replace former legacy aircraft that were used in aerial fire suppression efforts and are more than 50 years old.
The airtanker industry, including Missoula-based Neptune Aviation, has been awaiting the agency’s solicitation of Next Generation airtankers since February 2017.
Neptune Aviation has made significant investments in acquiring and converting aircraft for the wildland firefighting mission and currently has nine Next Generation airtankers in its fleet.
As of November 8, 2018, there have been 1,240 fires burning 96,327 acres in Montana.
– Congressman Greg Gianforte
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