06.30.17

Rep. Schiff Sends Letter of Concern to U.S. Forest Service over Contract Changes to Firefighting Helicopters

Letter Questions Implications for Angeles National Forest as California Enters Peak Fire Season

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell expressing concern over the decision by the Forest Service to change six Type 1 firefighting helicopters from “exclusive use” contracts to “call when needed” contracts, including a helicopter based in Lancaster, CA.

“As we enter peak fire season in Southern California, I would like to know the implications of this decision on readiness and speed of response in the event of a fire, since as you are well aware, the speed of response can be the difference between a destructive wildfire and a controlled event,” Schiff wrote in the letter.

Schiff’s letter was sent as half a dozen fires currently burn in Southern California. The fires stretch from San Luis Obispo County in the north to Camp Pendleton in the south and Riverside County in the east.

Full text of the letter is below:

June 30, 2017

 

Chief Tom Tidwell

USDA Forest Service

1400 Independence Ave, SW

Washington, DC  20250-1111

 

Dear Chief Tidwell:

 

I am writing to express my concern over the decision by the Forest Service to change six Type 1 firefighting helicopters from “exclusive use” contracts to “call when needed” contracts, including a helicopter based in Lancaster, CA. As we enter peak fire season in Southern California, I would like to know the implications of this decision on readiness and speed of response in the event of a fire, since as you are well aware, the speed of response can be the difference between a destructive wildfire and a controlled event.

                                    

Ensuring that the Forest Service has access to all resources at its disposal, at all times, is of the utmost importance to me and my constituents. While I understand that the Type 1 helicopter based in Lancaster, CA will remain stationed in Lancaster, the change from an “exclusive use” contract to “call when needed” raises a number of questions:

 

  • Will the Type 1 helicopter be available at all times in the event of a fire event in the Angeles National Forest?
  • If the helicopter will not be available at all times, what is the longest time period it will take to call up the helicopter and complete the process to activate it for a mission in the Angeles National Forest?
  • Will the Type 1 helicopter based in Lancaster be used in other parts of the country, and if so, how would this hinder the Forest Service’s ability to fight fires in Los Angeles County?
  • Is there a potential for the helicopter to be located outside of Southern California and not be available for use in Los Angeles County?

 

I respectfully request you respond to these questions pertaining to the availability of Type 1 helicopters to responders, as well as address the general readiness of the Forest Service.

 

Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter. I appreciate your consideration of my questions, and I look forward to working with you to improve the Forest Service’s firefighting efforts.

 

Sincerely,

 

Adam B. Schiff

Member of Congress