Air Support To Northwest Wildfires Could Be Delayed This Year
Senator Maria Cantwell questioned the acting head of the U.S. Forest Service, Vicki Christiansen, this week. Among the senator’s top concerns: There may not be enough air support for fires in the West this year.
Cantwell said during a meeting of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that air tankers can catch wildfires before they grow into expensive catastrophes. Aircraft can douse wildfires with retardant or use water dipping buckets.
So, she said, the new Forest Service policy reducing the number of on-call planes from 20 to 13 this season doesn’t make sense. The agency is also giving air support contractors more time — 48 hours — to respond to a wildfire.
Cantwell says the first few hours of fighting wildfires are often the most important. She used the example of Washington state’s Carlton Complex Fire, that was started by lightning and grew very quickly back in 2014.
“With the number of fire starts, I understand the Forest Service trying to be economical,” Cantwell said. “But how does it add up if those fire starts turn into more explosive fires?”
Christiansen countered that her agency can deploy the planes effectively. Forest Service managers plan to meet with Cantwell’s office later this week.
Last year fire managers throughout the nation placed 371 orders for air tankers, which were not filled because tankers were already busy on other fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Copyright 2018 Northwest News Networ
Last year, former President Trump refused to approve a routine disaster declaration for Malden because he was feuding with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat. So that federal aid didn’t start arriving until after President Biden took office and he finally signed the order. Continue Reading Federal Aid Arrived For Devastated Washington Town. It May Not Be Enough For This Fire Season
Washington’s U.S. senators say they’ve asked President Joe Biden to approve a major disaster declaration for eastern Washington towns that were burned by wildfires last fall. Those include the Whitman County town of Malden, which lost about 80% of its homes. Continue Reading Lawmakers Ask President Biden To Act On Washington Wildfire Relief After Trump Refused
This marks the second year the state Department of Natural Resources has pushed for legislation to expand Washington’s firefighting efforts. This time DNR is seeking $125 million every two years, during a legislative session complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue Reading Washington Lands Agency Seeks Big Funding Bill To Combat Increasingly Bigger Fire Seasons