Tester Sounds Off on Wildfire Equipment - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Tester Sounds Off on Wildfire Equipment

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Senator Jon Tester today telling the head of the Forest Service that his agency is putting Montana communities at risk this summer by choosing the wrong air tankers to fight wildfires.

The forest service recently contracted with companies that will not be able to put the fire-fighting planes into operation until at least late July.

Tester said the agency did not make a cost-efficient decision and left better options on the table.

"I've seen what's happened in Montana's forests for a long time now.  I live in eastern Montana, two, three hundred miles from where the forest is and we're covered in smoke most summers.  But if we're going to fight these fires, and if you want to use NextGEN as being the plane that's really going to get the job done much more efficiently and cost effectively, I honest to goodness can't figure out why the award was made the way it was.  That's just a dirt farmer talking.  Quite frankly, we haven't been able to get an answer from your staff as to when these plans are going to be up in the air.  And I'm not sure whether I've gotten one from you as to whether these planes can be up in the air in 60 days.  My problem is that there were better options on the table to be taken up by the Forest Service from my perspective, and they didn't do it."

Tester questioned Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell at a Senate hearing examining the Forest Service's budget proposal.

Last year's wildfire season was the third-worst in American history.


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