Today the President signed S. 3261, Contract Awards for Large Air Tankers. The bill supports our nation's ability to fight wildfires by enabling the Forest Service to accelerate the contracting of the next generation of air tankers for wildfire suppression in future wildfire responses, bolstering resources they rely on today. The bill builds on the Obama Administration’s comprehensive strategy for modernizing the air tanker fleet. As part of that strategy, the Administration proposed an additional $24 million in the President's 2013 budget to begin modernizing the fleet.
The importance of the bill is underscored by the damaging wildfires burning today. The Administration is currently supporting efforts to respond to a number of large fires in Western states, including in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.
Through the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates resources from the US Forest Service, Department of the Interior and other federal agencies, firefighters, incident management teams, air tankers, helicopters, fire engines and other resources are being provided to supplement state and local resources as teams continue to respond to fires across the West.
This includes approximately 5,000 firefighters available to aid in efforts to suppress and contain the fires as well as 16 large air tankers and one very large air tanker to assist in wildfire suppression.
A FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team, upon request of the state, has also been deployed to provide support to the Colorado Division of Emergency Management, assisting with operational coordination. The IMAT consists of operations, planning, logistics, program, technology and emergency information staff who specialize in coordinating large-scale, multi-agency disaster responses.
To ensure states have the financial support they need, FEMA has approved Fire Management Assistance Grants to assist state and local firefighting efforts in Colorado and New Mexico. These grants help cover eligible costs, on a 75 percent cost share basis, and can reimburse state and local costs associated with personnel and equipment used to combat fires.
The President has made clear that his administration will continue to support state and local responders, and stands ready to provide additional resources should they be needed by responders working to protect lives and property.