Forest Service Abruptly Cancels Contract for Firefighting Planes

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The Los Angeles Times reports today that the U.S. Forest Service is canceling a contract with a manufacturer or air tankers, citing safety concerns. The agency decided to drop the contract with months left in the Western U.S. fire season.

"We can't in good conscience maintain an aviation contract where we feel lives may be ut at risk due to inadequate safety practices," said Tom Harbour, USFS' fire and aviation director.

The contract for the exclusive use of six P-3 tankers was yanked from Aero Union Corp. of Chico, Calif.

The contract cancellation came in the wake of an announcement from Boise's National Interagency
Fire Center that the current fire season is exected to begin tapering off.

"We just don't see anything out of normal; in fact, we see a little bit below normal" for the rest of the year, said Karen Wood, Forest service director of operations at NIFC.