Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced that the Interior Appropriations bill will include language he authored that strongly urges the Forest Service to complete two critical reports still incomplete more than three years after the tragic Station Fire in Southern California. Rep. Schiff has long called for the Forest Service to complete its report on the possibility of using helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft at night to fight forest fires. The Forest Service has initiated studies to investigate this strategy, but has consistently missed internal deadlines to deliver these reports. The language calls on the Forest Service to complete the night-flying operation studies within 90 days of enactment of the Act. Schiff secured this language during a markup of the Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
“With another fire season upon us, the Forest Service’s lack of action is beyond negligence,” said Rep. Schiff. “The agency must conclude their analyses of whether and how to develop its own night-flying capability public immediately. While we’ve seen evidence that the Forest Service has to begin modernizing its approach to fighting fires, it is not clear they have gotten the message. It is my hope that the language we secured in this appropriations bill will catalyze the agency to finally move forward and produce the reports they have long-promised but never delivered.”
The Forest Service is also required under the FLAME Act of 2009 to develop a cohesive wildland fire strategy. While the agency has produced some early documents in this process, it has failed to produce the third and final phase of these documents that include critical components of that strategy. The language, Rep. Schiff secured in the report language calls on the Forest Service to deliver this critical last round of documents within 180 days of enactment of the Act.
Below is the text Schiff secured:
TIMELY DELIVERY OF CRITICAL REPORTS.— In the wake of the tragic Station Fire in Southern California, it is necessary to ensure that the Forest Service’s firefighting policies provide the most effective initial response possible, particularly for forests close to urban areas. The Committee remains concerned that the Forest Service has not produced two critical documents in a timely fashion. The Forest Service is strongly encouraged to provide the results of the nationwide assessment of the agency’s night flying operations – both the helicopter portion and fixed-wing portion – within 90 days after enactment of this Act. The Forest Service is also strongly encouraged to release the third and final phase of the cohesive wildland fire strategy, as required by the FLAME Act, that includes critical components of that strategy – such as considering potential approaches for addressing the growing wildfire threat, estimating the costs of each approach, and identifying trade-offs – within 180 days after enactment of this Act.