Senators Kelly, Lummis introduce bipartisan bill to remove regulatory obstacles for wildland fire aviation
WASHINGTON — Arizona Senator Mark Kelly and Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) recently introduced the Wildfire Response Aviation Modernization and Safety Act, bipartisan legislation that would cut through red tape and allow wildfire response aircraft (planes and helicopters) leased by state or federal agencies to transport wildland firefighters.
The legislation builds on recommendations from the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, which was established after Kelly and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) got their Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Act in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021.
Current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations only allow leased aircraft to be used for fire suppression operations, such as water drops. In many instances, the same aircraft that can safely carry fire crews when owned by government entities, including the U.S. Forest Service, cannot carry crews when leased for fire response. By removing this regulation, the legislation aims to improve wildland fire response coordination between federal, state, and local agencies.
“Longer and more extreme wildfire seasons are a worsening threat to the health and safety of communities across Arizona,” said Senator Kelly. “Our wildland firefighters need every tool possible to keep us safe. Our legislation builds upon the recommendations of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission by improving wildfire prevention and mitigation strategies in Arizona and across the West. I am grateful to Senator Lummis for her partnership on this issue.”
“When wildfires break out in Wyoming, it is essential that personnel are deployed as quickly and efficiently as possible. The Wildfire Response Aviation Modernization and Safety Act just makes sense. It will allow us to use every safe aircraft at our disposal to get firefighters to wildfire areas to save lives, homes and property. I am grateful for Senator Kelly and his work on this important legislation,” said Senator Lummis.
“I commend Senators Kelly and Lummis for their leadership in introducing the Wildfire Response Aviation Modernization and Safety Act. As the nation continues to confront catastrophic wildland fire seasons, it is important that local fire departments are able to deploy resources effectively to combat wildland fires,” said Chief Donna Black, EFO, CFO, the President and Chair of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “In order to deploy resources more effectively in a dynamic situation, the IAFC supports efforts to require the FAA to revise its guidance and allow fire-safe Restricted Category aircraft to both carry firefighters to the incident scene and engage in fire suppression operations.”
Arizonans are increasingly threatened by the effects of devastating wildfires fueled by climate change and the West’s historic drought. Since 2020, Arizona has faced over five thousand wildfires and seen more than 1.6 million acres burn.
In the Senate, Senator Kelly has worked across the aisle to boost and improve Arizona’s wildfire management and response. As a key negotiator of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Kelly wrote the wildfire management provisions which dedicated $8.25 billion toward this effort. Thanks to his work, Arizona received $61 million for wildfire prevention in 2022 alone. Kelly also successfully championed the creation of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The Commission convenes experts from local communities and the private and public sectors to improve wildfire prevention strategies across the West.
Information provided by Senator Mark Kelly's office