December 10, 2019

Wyden, Merkley, Walden Welcome Good News on Large Air Tankers

Oregon lawmakers had pressed Forest Service to issue “call when needed” awards for wildfire-fighting aircraft

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden today welcomed news that the Forest Service has awarded ”call when needed” (CWN) contracts to providers of wildfire-fighting large air tankers.

In a September 2019 letter to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen, the Oregon lawmakers had pressed the Forest Service to award the contracts, which had been issued for solicitation back in July 2018. CWN awards allow the Forest Service to put approved aircraft into service when those aircraft are needed, and do not require the Forest Service to pay for those aircraft when they are not needed.

“Oregonians need the broadest possible range of options when it comes to fighting wildfires that threaten their lives, homes and businesses,” Wyden said. “These contracts will help the Forest Service fight fires more effectively by providing access to next-generation large air tankers at lower rates, saving money as well for taxpayers.”

“Every Oregonian has experienced the consequences of wildfires, from the damage to our farms and forests to the dense blankets of smoke compromising our health,” said Merkley. “That’s why my colleagues and I urged the Forest Service to approve the use of large air tankers to help our state stay safe in the face of dangerous blazes. I’m pleased that they agreed, and will continue to do everything I can to secure the resources Oregonians need for wildfire season.”

“Oregonians have had enough of smoke and wildfires. These contracts for large air tankers will help ensure the Forest Service has additional tools to combat and contain these fires,” Walden said. “I applaud the Trump Administration for hearing the concerns of rural Oregon and prioritizing not only important assets like air tankers for fighting these fires, but also using the new forest management tools we provided to take action to prevent fires. This is all welcome progress, but we have more work to do. I will continue to work with the Trump Administration and my colleagues to reduce the threat and effects of wildfire to our forests and communities.  

Among the companies earning call-when-needed contracts is Erickson Aero Air in Hillsboro.

“We would like to thank Senator Wyden, Senator Merkley, and Congressman Walden for their help in getting this important contract awarded,” said Erickson Aero owner Jack Erickson. “This agreement with USFS will provide valuable assets to combat the ever-increasing threat from wildfires in Oregon and the Western United States.”