US Forest Service Chief discusses role of helicopters in fire mitigation

US Forest Service Chief discusses role of helicopters in fire mitigation

19-Apr-2012 Source: HAI

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing April 18th to discuss the U.S. Forest Service’s budget. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell testified on behalf of his department, with the focus of the hearing being on the forest fire season.

When asked by Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.) on how the agency will fight fires in the current age of fiscal austerity, Chief Tidwell stated that the USFS will “rely on a mix of aircraft, including additional tankers and helicopters.”

When asked about the additional aircraft, Tidwell said that the agency has ordered four additional Type-1 helicopters. In addition to that, he said there are another 90 “call-when-needed” helicopters available.

“By going for four additional helicopters, we’ll be better prepared than last year,” he said.

When pressed by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calf.) about helicopter order cancellations, Tidwell responded, “There will be eight fewer Type-2 helicopters [this year], but bringing on 4 Type-1s would result in a greater overall water capacity.” In addition, Tidwell stated, “If we needed to bring on additional helicopters over the next 30-45 days, we can do that.”

“I don’t want another Station Fire,” Feinstein said. “I think the decision was made in the Station Fire not to attack early.”

“[W]e took initial action on the Station Fire,” Tidwell responded. “Early the next morning [after the fire started], we had helicopters dropping thousands of gallons [of water] on the fire. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, these things get out of control.”

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