Leaders with the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service say they won´t place lives at risk by using aging air tankers to fight wildfires this year.
Kathleen Clarke with the Bureau of Land Management and Dale Bosworth with the Forest Service released a joint statement in Boise, Idaho, defending their decision Tuesday.
They say they understand public concern. But for now, wildfires will be fought mainly from the ground — and the fleet of 33 wildfire airtankers won´t take flight again until officials can find some way to assure their safety.
There have been three fatal crashes with the big, fixed-wing planes in the last ten years.
Some lawmakers are criticizing the decision to ground the planes — saying there´s just no good substitute for the air tankers and they are needed in the air.
California Department of Forestry airtankers, like those based at the Columbia Air Attack Base, will still be used this fire season. They are due to arrive here mid- June.