Tester Secures New Firefighting Equipment for Upcoming Wildfire Season
Montana National Guard’s New Fire Buckets are “in the Mail”
(U.S. Senate) - After a historic wildfire season that burned more than one million acres across Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester has secured critical new firefighting equipment for the upcoming season.
"I just want to visit a little bit about a thing called fire buckets that we need in Montana," Tester told General Joseph L. Lengyel at an Appropriations Committee hearing today on the National Guard and Reserve budget. "We burnt 1.25 million acres of land last year during forest fire season. The equipment is critical, you've said in the past you support it. When can we expect those buckets in Montana?"
"They're on their way sir," said General Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "There are National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation dollars buying those buckets and you'll have them this summer I think."
"They're in the mail, good!" responded Tester.
In December, Tester asked the National Guard Bureau for seven new firefighting buckets for the Montana Army National Guard's (MTARNG) helicopter fleet. Specifically, he requested two firefighting bucket kits for CH-47 helicopters and five firefighting bucket kits for UH-60 helicopters.
Tester then secured needed funding in the March budget bill and worked with the National Guard Bureau to ensure this funding would be used to purchase the firefighting equipment MTARNG requested. Tester pushed hard to expedite this process, citing the importance of delivering this equipment before the start of the next fire season.
"In combating [last year's] fires, MTARNG's firefighting equipment was pushed to the limit of its serviceability," Tester wrote to General Lengyel in December. "To fully restore its firefighting capabilities heading into what could be another devastating wildfire season and to ensure it can effectively control fires that occur on federal training areas, it is critical that the National Guard Bureau help secure [this] essential firefighting equipment."
During the hearing, Tester also emphasized the importance of providing members of the National Guard with the care, support, and assistance they need to keep pace with increased training and operational demands.
Tester recently secured a pay raise for members of the National Guard and Reserve in September's National Defense Authorization Act. In August, President Trump signed Tester's bill into law to extend education and health care benefits to Guardsmen and Reservists who deployed overseas.