New report outlines plan to meet aerial firefighting equipment needs in US

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The Biden-Harris administration’s Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission has released a report outlining a strategy to meet aerial firefighting equipment needs through 2030.

The report released today re-examines existing approaches to aviation fleet procurement, mobilisation, composition and quantity in order to set aviation management on a new trajectory for the next decade and beyond.

The Commission, created by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and announced in December 2021, was charged with making recommendations to improve federal policies related to the mitigation, suppression, and management of wildland fires in the United States, and the rehabilitation of land in the United States devastated by wildland fires.

Chaired by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator, the Commission was tasked with developing two reports to Congress: the latest report is on aerial firefighting, and another report scheduled for release in Fall 2023 that delivers a comprehensive set of recommendations to address the nation’s wildfire crisis.

Findings and recommendations outlined in the report include: The need for the development of new or updated aviation resource benchmarks and national procurement models and the need for greater coordination with partners in these efforts, improvements to appropriations, contracting, staffing and interoperability to improve the use and availability of existing resources, improvements and limitations to the military surplus process and equipment, and additional considerations, including aviation resource use in beneficial fire and the emerging importance of Uncrewed Aerial Systems.

The Commission, composed of representatives from federal agencies, state, local and Tribal governments, and representatives from the private sector meets monthly to discuss and craft these recommendations.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland commented: “Climate change has increased the duration and intensity of wildfire seasons and, with it, added pressures on wildland firefighters who are on the frontlines. The Biden-Harris administration is committed to providing the necessary equipment and resources to support their work and keep them safe.

“Through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Administration is providing coordinated investments in wildland fire management and support for our firefighting workforce. I am grateful to the Wildland Fire Management and Mitigation Commission for their hard work as they guide us into the future.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: “Wildfires are growing larger and more complex and business as usual is not an option in protecting communities and landscapes. Thanks to the landmark support from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission has brought together diverse voices to address problems and find solutions to these challenges. This report represents the next step in the Commission’s critical work, and explores how aviation resources can be best brought to bear on the nation’s wildfire crisis.”

 FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell added: “Climate change and associated extreme weather events are being felt by communities across the country. We are seeing a surge in devastating floods, more energized hurricanes, and a wildfire season that’s now a year-long threat. Wildfires in particular are becoming a near-constant risk, destroying lives and property nationwide.

“To respond to these increasing threats, we must use every tool at our disposal while re-examining existing approaches to better protect people. This report is an example of the type of work required to mitigate climate risks and we will continue to work with our partners across the Biden-Harris Administration to improve federal policies related to America’s persistent fire problem.”

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