By Michelle Malkin –
Nine months after Lungren’s warning, the deadly High Park fire in Larimer County, Colo., claimed a grandmother’s life, destroyed 189 homes, and scorched nearly 60,000 acres. Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, and Wyoming also have battled infernos this summer.
After months of red flags from a diverse group of politicians ranging from Governor Rick Perry (R., Texas) and Senator Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) to Senators Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.), President Obama finally signed emergency legislation last week to expedite the contracting process. Obama will borrow planes from Canada and provide $24 million for new aerial-tanker contracts.
But the money won’t come until next year, and the dog-and-pony rescue moves will not result in any immediate relief. “It’s nice, but this problem isn’t fixed with a stroke of the pen,” former Forest Service official and bomber pilot Tony Kern told the Denver Post this week. “You need to have the airplanes available now.” Veteran wildland firefighter and blogger Bill Gabbert, of WildfireToday.com, adds, “The USFS should have awarded contracts for at least 20 additional air tankers, not seven.”