GAO: Delays blamed for wildfire air tanker shortages - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

GAO: Delays blamed for wildfire air tanker shortages

2011 Wallow Fire (Source: CBS 5 News) 2011 Wallow Fire (Source: CBS 5 News)
2011 Wallow Fire (Source: U.S. Forest Service) 2011 Wallow Fire (Source: U.S. Forest Service)
WASHINGTON (CBS5) -

A new report released by the General Accountability Office says the U.S. Forest Service is well aware that the number of available air tankers to fight wildfires is dwindling.

The federal government's large air tanker fleet has dropped from 44 aircraft in 2002 to about eight this year. [Related: Read the full GAO report (PDF)]

The GAO said it blames bureaucracy and bidding problems for the delays in getting a new fleet.

There's been a lack of oversight on the entire process, including not budgeting properly for the new fleet's operating costs, the report stated.

In addition, the report finds the air tankers that have ordered to replace the aging fleet have never been fully tested and approved for actually fighting wildfires.

Since 1995, federal agencies have produced nine different studies on air tankers with varying recommendations and conclusions about the right composition and size of the wildfire aircraft fleet.

The report also stated federal agencies need to do a better job of recording missions and measuring the effectiveness of different types of aircraft in dropping retardant. The GAO notes that the Forest Service says it could take many years and hundreds of missions in different terrain conditions to analyze each aircraft's unique strengths and weaknesses.

In the wake of the report, U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) released the following statement:

"We applaud the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for its sensible recommendation that federal agencies must coordinate when updating their needs-based wildfire aircraft plans. A shared strategic vision should be developed and acted upon as rapidly as possible considering that the current large air tanker fleet has dropped from 44 aircraft in 2002 to about eight this year.

"Nationwide, but especially in states like Arizona, the number and severity of wildfires is expected to increase. Therefore, it is vitally important that the Forest Service, in coordination with the Department of the Interior, articulate the current strategic posture of the air tanker fleet around the country. These agencies should work together to quickly establish the strategic requirement for air tankers nationwide, assess what combination of assets would best satisfy that requirement, and jointly determine how such a fleet should be most effectively deployed around the country to help ensure the protection of persons and property.

"The last thing we need is to study this issue indefinitely. There have already been nine different studies on air tankers since 1995 and GAO notes it could be years before enough data is collected to fully analyze each aircraft's performance capabilities. Americans deserve better than to hear that more research is needed while wildfires destroy their homes and firefighters risk their lives. Federal agencies need to implement options that improve our wildfire fighting capabilities immediately."

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

  • More Local NewsNewsMore>>

  • SPECIAL REPORT: Cost of a Vote

    SPECIAL REPORT: Cost of a Vote

    Saturday, November 18 2017 1:28 AM EST2017-11-18 06:28:48 GMT
    (Source: KPLC)(Source: KPLC)

    If you don't remember we just had an election last month, don't feel bad, voter turnout was abysmal.  However, that doesn't change the cost of holding the election, meaning when hardly anyone shows up to vote, the cost per voter who actually casts a ballot is high. In fact, here in Calcasieu Parish, it would be cheaper to send each voter to see a movie, than it is to let them in the voting booth. Lynn Jones loves elections!  And why not. He's been involved in the electoral ...

    More >>

    If you don't remember we just had an election last month, don't feel bad, voter turnout was abysmal.  However, that doesn't change the cost of holding the election, meaning when hardly anyone shows up to vote, the cost per voter who actually casts a ballot is high. In fact, here in Calcasieu Parish, it would be cheaper to send each voter to see a movie, than it is to let them in the voting booth. Lynn Jones loves elections!  And why not. He's been involved in the electoral ...

    More >>
  • TOUCHDOWN LIVE: Second round scores and highlights

    TOUCHDOWN LIVE: Second round scores and highlights

    Saturday, November 18 2017 1:13 AM EST2017-11-18 06:13:18 GMT

    Fifteen local high school football teams have reached the second round of the playoffs and tonight they all take the field in the hopes of advancing once again.

    More >>

    Fifteen local high school football teams have reached the second round of the playoffs and tonight they all take the field in the hopes of advancing once again.

    More >>
  • LC council member wants measures in place for pretrial bond reductions

    LC council member wants measures in place for pretrial bond reductions

    Saturday, November 18 2017 12:02 AM EST2017-11-18 05:02:18 GMT
    (Source: Maranda Whittington/KPLC)(Source: Maranda Whittington/KPLC)

    Months of undercover work led Calcasieu's Combined Anti-Drug Team (CAT) to perform a drug raid on two homes in Lake Charles back in late October. Six were arrested and booked, but one of those suspects was able to get back on the streets that same day, leaving many upset, including city council member Luvertha August. 

    More >>

    Months of undercover work led Calcasieu's Combined Anti-Drug Team (CAT) to perform a drug raid on two homes in Lake Charles back in late October. Six were arrested and booked, but one of those suspects was able to get back on the streets that same day, leaving many upset, including city council member Luvertha August. 

    More >>
Powered by Frankly