Since 2010, the Republicans have cut the federal firefighting budget by more than $200 million.
The resources for fighting fires in Colorado are so bad that a delegation was formed by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R -3d CD), Rep. Cory Gardner (R-4th CD), and Rep, Mike Coffman (R-6th CD) demanding the federal government provide more funds and equipment to help fight the expanding fires.
It's unfortunate that all three of these U.S. Representatives demanding help for their home state also voted for the Paul Ryan budget cuts which would drastically reduce the funding for the federal firefighting program. Rep. Paul Ryan claims he can meet the country’s needs by cutting back on “imprudent, irresponsible, and downright wasteful spending.” Powerfulstorms.com wonders which category firefighting fall into: Imprudent, Irresponsible or Wasteful?
In response to the delegation's request, the U.S. Forest Service said it would add more aircraft to its aerial firefighting fleet.
The current fleet of big air tankers which drop fire retardant is made up of Lockheed P-2Vs, anti-submarine patrol planes dating to the 1950s that have been modified with jets to supplement the piston engines. More than half of these planes are due to retire in the next 10 years.
The number of large aircraft has steadily dwindled since 2004, when the Forest Service grounded 33 air tankers after a number of high-profile crashes.
The big tankers used to drop fire retardant are a key resource that is rapidly diminishing. There were 43 tankers a decade ago; now there are only 17. One tanker crashed last month, killing two pilots and another made an emergency landing when a landing gear failed to come down.
In addition, since the Republican plan cuts the firefighting fund, the U.S. Forest Service has been forced to request the assistance of Canada to help extinguish the fires. Two aerial bombers are on loan from Canada and assisting the fight to extinguish the roaring blazes in Colorado. At least three Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment planes are helping elsewhere in the lower 48 states and an elite Canadian firefighting crew is en route to Colorado. Last year Canada sent resources to help with wildfires in Texas and Alaska.
The Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, Colorado erupted Saturday and has grown to cover over 15,500 acres and 32,000 residents are on mandatory evacuation including portions of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Governor John Hickenlooper says that the Waldo Canyon Fire is now the worse disaster to hit his state.