Fewer air tankers available for nation-wide coverage this Summer

Medford, Ore. — The U.S. Forest Service has fewer air tankers prepped to fight fires this Summer. In 2017, 20 of the aircraft were available; as of late April, only 13 are under contract. Residents are concerned the change will have a negative impact on Southern Oregon.

“I’d say the last three years, it’s really become an issue,” Dan Elster said. “I don’t remember seeing such smoke-filled valleys and intense forest fires the first several years I lived here.”

Over the past couple years, smoke has been settling in the Rogue Valley for weeks at a time. Elster noted it affects everyone.

“It impacts everyone’s lives, I think it impacts our economy, I think it impacts our health, our environment,” Elster said.

The nation could see a shortage of resources this upcoming fire season. Currently, 13 air tankers are on contract for use across the country. The decrease is a concern for Elster.

“I would think we would be beefing up our fire fighting capabilities,” Elster said, adding praise for firefighters getting ready for the upcoming fire season. “I support you, I hope you get the resources you need.”

U.S. Forest Services representatives say the number of air tankers could fluctuate either way. The numbers won’t be final until May.

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