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Bipartisan group of Western senators presses Biden administration to coordinate across federal agencies to address possible jet fuel shortages for wildland firefighting as destructive, deadly blazes hit the West

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined a bipartisan group of Western Senators led by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) in pressing the Biden administration to coordinate and develop a strategy to combat jet fuel shortages that undercut wildland firefighting as wildfires burn across the West.

In addition to Murray, Cantwell, and Wyden, Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Mike Crapo (R-ID), joined in sending the letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“As you are well aware, the 2020 wildfire season was one of the most destructive seasons on record; destroying thousands of homes, burning millions acres, and straining communities already battling a historic pandemic. In 2021, there are already over 108 large fires burning in 15 states and the need for an aerial response to fight these fires is a critical and much-needed tool. We are concerned that fuel shortages could lead to the grounding of federal, state, and contracted aircrafts and hurt the ability for initial fire attack and further devastate communities near the growing number of wildfires,” the senators wrote.

The senators requested a response no later than August 23 on the following questions related to the administration’s efforts on jet fuel shortage:  

  • What plans are currently in place to address fuel shortages for aerial wildfire efforts? 
  • How will your Departments coordinate a response if a fuel shortage occurs while multiple wildfires are burning across multiple states? 
  • Are there enough available personnel to transport fuel to needed locations? If not, how will you increase qualified personnel?
  • What are the steps to expedite the ability for non-federal entities to purchase jet fuel to support aerial firefighting? 
  • What steps do you take in the contracting process to ensure that contractors have access to an adequate and reliable supply of fuel?

“The importance of a strategic and integrated approach to tackle wildfire is essential, and we urge your continued partnerships and coordination with state and local firefighting response units. We also urge strong coordination with the White House for the duration of the wildfire season to ensure prompt access to the needed resources when they are available. We stand ready to support wildfire prevention, response, and recovery for the citizens across the West,” the senators concluded.

Senators Murray and Cantwell worked with other Western lawmakers to ensure the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included a historic investment to help fight and manage wildfires in the immediate term. Of $50 billion dedicated to resiliency, the bill invests $8 billion specifically in wildfire risk reduction by providing funding for community wildfire defense grants, mechanical thinning, controlled burns, the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program, and firefighting resources.

A copy of the letter is HERE