President Obama today signed legislation U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman cosponsored to make it possible for the Forest Service to add more air tankers to their wildfire suppression fleet. The bill was sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).
While the U.S. Forest Service has made decisions regarding contracts for seven next-generation air tankers, those contracts cannot be awarded until after a 30 day waiting period. The new law expedites the contracts by waiving the waiting period and getting the planes into service as soon as possible.
"In New Mexico, firefighters are continuing to battle several ongoing wildfires," Bingaman said. "I am pleased Congress and the President were able to act in short order to get this bill passed and signed so the Forest Service can move more quickly to secure much-needed air tankers," Bingaman said.
The Forest Service notified Congress on May 25 that it intended to award four contracts for seven planes to partially fulfill the government's need for large air tankers. The Forest Service also requested that Congress waive the 30 waiting period. That was a week before two accidents involving Forest Service air tankers left one plane totaled and another likely out for the season with landing gear damage.