Sen. Tester pledges support to wild land fire fighters, smokejumpers


by Faith Cronin

Tuesday afternoon the senator made a trip to the Missoula Smokejumper Center to speak with fire officials about their fire season concerns.

NBC Montana was there and spoke with the senator about what his focus is now that fire season is beginning.

He tells us he wants to make sure smoke jumpers have enough man power and resources. Tester tells us a lack of man-power, planes and equipment means lives and property could be on the line.

Tester tell us he plans to introduce a bill that would give experienced fire fighters a better shot at filling permanent positions and not just seasonal fire fighting jobs that end once their hours run out.

“It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon but it can be pretty devastating if you’re in the line of that fire,” said Tester. “So we’ve got to make sure that we have adequate folks out there that are able to fight the fire to protect property and human lives.”

We talked to Dan Cottrell, assistant operation foreman for the Missoula Smokejumper Center, he tell us his concerns focus on training.

“It’s mostly just getting our jumpers trained up with good effective training and practice jumps so that they are ready to start jumping fires once the season breaks,” said Cottrell. “It’s important to equip them with the tools they need to be successful and safe with what we are doing out in the field.”

In a press release Tester says the government could save money by getting these fire fighters into more permanent positions, rather than hiring more expensive contract workers as the season continues.