Udall calls for firefighting fleet modernization

Presses USDA, Air Force to repurpose military aircraft for firefighting

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“These delays are unacceptable, especially in light of forecasts that the 2013 wildfire season could be even more severe than last year, which produced the two most destructive wildfires in Colorado history.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., about efforts to modernize USDA and repurpose Air Force equipment to fight wildfires.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has asked the directors of two federal agencies to modernize or repurpose its equipment to fight wildfires.

In a letter to Tom Vilsack, U.S. Agriculture secretary, Udall requested information on the government’s efforts to modernize the USDA’s aging tanker fleet, according to a news release from Sen. Udall’s office.

Udall also penned a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley urging the military to repurpose aircraft to fight wildfires in Colorado and throughout the west.

“Last summer I led the fight to expedite the U.S. Forest Service’s acquisition of several next generation tankers to supplement the Korean War-era aircraft that made up the firefighting fleet,” Udall said in a news release. “However, I have recently learned that these new tankers are tangled in red tape.

“These delays are unacceptable, especially in light of forecasts that the 2013 wildfire season could be even more severe than last year, which produced the two most destructive wildfires in Colorado history. That is why I am also urging the U.S. Air Force to quickly transfer several of its excess aircraft to the Forest Service so they can be repurposed for fighting wildfires.”

Udall serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources, and the Armed Services committees.

He has worked to improve how the U.S. Forest Service, the military and other agencies work together to fight wildfires in the wake of last summer’s Waldo Canyon Fire, the release states.

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