In the wake of wildfires that have devastated much of Oregon this year, Erickson Aero Tanker of Hillsboro, Ore., won a $70.5 million federal contract for large air tanker services to aid wildland firefighting both in-state and abroad.
U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) both praised the news, noting the additions it will provide to the nation’s firefighting arsenal.
“I drove hundreds of miles across Oregon as this year’s unprecedented wildfires raged, and I saw unfathomable destruction and hazardous smoke at every turn,” Merkley said. “This year was a devastating reminder of just how important it is that we have every possible tool—including air tankers—at the ready to keep our communities safe from future blazes. I’m pleased that this funding is headed to our state, and I’m going to keep doing everything I can to make sure we’re not only prepared but taking urgently needed steps to reduce the risk of more catastrophic wildfires.”
The air tankers will bolster the U.S. Forest Service by providing modern aerial firefighting support through the delivery of retardant where needed throughout the country. With this funding, the government has purchased two fire bombers for this purpose.
“With this contract, Erickson Aero Tanker will have four MD-87s under exclusive-use contracts, with two more available for call-when-needed emergency use,” Matt Isley, Erickson Aero Tanker general manager, said. “This fire season, our tankers — including our DC-7 tanker in Oregon — have dropped over 6.5 million gallons of water or retardant on fires in 13 states. We are proud to be an integral part of saving lives and property in the hardest-hit areas of Oregon and the rest of the country.”