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Tester Urges Forest Service to Hurry Prep for Upcoming Fire Season

Neptune Aviation Jet Tanker
Photo courtesy of Neptune Aviation

With Montana’s fire season around the corner, Senator Jon Tester urged the Forest Service on Wednesday to make sure Montanans will be protected from this year’s wildfires.

Tester pushed Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to stay on top of the contractors after they failed to provide the promised number of planes in 2013, putting firefighters, homeowners and Montana’s forests at risk.  The contractors first developed proposals for the Forest Service in 2011, but no new planes are currently ready.

“I’d hold their feet to the fire,” Tester said. “This isn’t nuclear physics, this kind of stuff is not that complicated.  Quite frankly, I think they knew exactly what they were getting into when they awarded the contracts.”

Tester also questioned Tidwell as the panel works on the 2015 Forest Service budget. Tidwell assured Tester that Forest Service contractors will have seven air tankers ready to fight fires on July 1.

Tester promised to continue pressing the Forest Service as fire season approaches.

More than 1,700 fires burned 124,202 acres across Montana last year, a down year compared to 2012’s record-setting fire season.

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