Udall claims 'clear victory' for Colorado as air tanker protest withdrawn

Modern air tankers coming online as state wildfire season heats up

By Real Aspen
Real AspenJune 7, 2013
Colorado Sen. Mark Udall on Friday called the withdrawal of a protest a by a private aviation contractor challenging a federal air tanker deal “a clear victory” for Coloradans facing another potentially devastating wildfire season.

A month ago the U.S. Forest Service announced a deal to use up to seven modern air tankers provided by five different companies for a period of up to 10 years. Neptune Aviation, reportedly a company not awarded one of the contracts, filed a protest.

Sen. Mark Udall has been pushing hard for modern air tankers.

Udall, an outspoken advocate for more federal firefighting resources after last summer’s massive and deadly Colorado wildfires, called for a federal override of the protest process – which could have pushed acquisition of the new tankers back to late August. Earlier this week, Colorado’s Front Range already saw its first wildfire – a 25-acre blaze near Evergreen.

On Friday, Neptune reportedly withdrew its protest, clearing the way for the new tankers, according to Udall’s office.

“This is a clear victory for the people of Colorado and sends the unmistakable message that lives and homes are more important than dollars and cents,” Udall said in a news release. “I am proud the contractor heeded my repeated calls to allow the U.S. Forest Service to move forward with these critical next-generation air tanker contracts.

“This decision will allow the U.S. Forest Service to start replacing its outdated, Korean War-era air tankers with the tools is needs to protect communities and fight modern mega-fires.”

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