WASHINGTON – President Obama signed legislation Wednesday that aims to speed up the production of air tankers that carry more retardant to fight wildfires.
The law waives the 30-day period before the Chief of the Forest Service can award a contract for a large air tanker and allows the USFS to buy as many as seven large tankers. With the Forest Service’s fleet containing several tankers that have been in use for more than half a century, the latter provision is considered significant over the long run.
Congress passed the legislation last week before the High Park Fire began to ravage more than 46,400 acres of forest 15 miles west of Fort Collins. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) in the House and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in the Senate, comes during the traditional forest fire season in the West and as fires rage in New Mexico, California, Utah, Wyoming, and Arizona.
The President, who signed the legislation in a White House ceremony closed to most of the press, did not issue a statement about the law. Colorado lawmakers sent a letter to USFS Chief Tim Tidwell on Monday urging him to provide the state with more federal help, especially air support.