December 7, 2017 4:00 a.m.
Congressman Peter DeFazio says he is pressing officials with the U.S. Forest Service on specifics regarding their aerial firefighting resources and procedures.
A release from DeFazio says that Oregon and other western states endured some of the worst wildfires in decades, in 2017. He says that “because of the department’s own missteps, they did not have all the tools available at their disposal to fight the blazes”. DeFazio called that “ludicrous”. His statement continues saying that “to be anything less than prepared for next year’s fire season, is unacceptable”. He says he will continue to fight to make sure the Forest Service has the funding its needs to acquire the tools required to effectively fight wildfires next season.
The release says the 2017 fire season was one of the worst in decades, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres in Oregon alone. Prior to the season, DeFazio says the USFS solicited requests for proposals for air tankers to combat forest fires. However, their proposal excluded tankers that exceeded five thousand gallons of flame retardant. Due to that limitation, Global SuperTanker, which owns a 747 with retardant capacity of over 19,000 gallons, was unable to compete.
Global SuperTanker protested the RFP to the Government Accountability Office, stating the retardant capacity restriction was unduly restrictive. DeFazio says the GAO upheld the protest, agreeing that there was no reasonable basis for the agency to limit retardant capacity.
DeFazio says he has repeatedly pressed the U.S. Forest Service to determine why they did not solicit a high-capacity aerial firefighting plane to combat this summer’s blazes. His release says he is pushing the agency to describe their plans to ensure they have adequate fire suppression tools in the future.