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Congressman Peter DeFazio

Representing the 4th District of OREGON

Rep. Peter DeFazio Presses US Forest Service on Aerial Firefighting Resources

Dec 6, 2017
Press Release

Rep. Peter DeFazio last week sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Chief Tony Tooke pressing the agency on specifics regarding their aerial firefighting resources and procedures.

“Oregon and other Western states endured some of the worst wildfires in decades this year, yet because of the department’s own missteps, they did not have all tools available at their disposal to fight the blazes—that’s ludicrous,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio. “To be anything less than prepared for next year’s fire season is unacceptable, and I will continue to fight so that the forest service has the funding they need to acquire the tools they need to effectively fight wildfires next season.”

The 2017 fire season was one of the worst in decades, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres in Oregon alone. Prior to the 2017 fire season, the USFS solicited requests for proposals (RFPs) for air tankers to combat forest fires.  However, their proposal excluded tankers that exceeded five thousand gallons of flame retardant. Because of the 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. The GAO upheld Global SuperTanker’s protest, agreeing that there was no reasonable basis for the USFS to limit retardant capacity. 

Rep. DeFazio has repeatedly pressed the USFS to determine why they did not solicit a high-capacity aerial firefighting plane to combat this summer’s blazes. His letter to Chief Tooke also pushes the agency to describe their plans to ensure they will have adequate fire suppression tools in the future.

To read a PDF version of Rep. DeFazio’s letter to the USFS, click here