FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 27, 2015
Mike Wessler, Deputy Communications Director, Governor’s Office 444-9725
Catherine Cochran, USDA Press Secretary, 202-720-4623
Helena, Mont. – Governor Steve Bullock and United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today put out the following joint statement on a path forward on utilization of state firefighting helicopters:
“USDA and the State of Montana have a strong and valued partnership built on many years of sharing fire suppression resources. This week, USDA and Governor Bullock have had several productive conversations aimed at finding a path forward that addresses our mutual goals of ensuring safe, effective and timely utilization of helicopters. Our aviation experts will be meeting in Montana in the coming days to develop a plan for operating the state's helicopters as part of coordinated state and federal firefighting operations. Meanwhile, over the last several weeks, the Forest Service and its federal partners have moved additional aviation assets into Montana to meet immediate needs. The professionalism of our firefighting team, made up of state, local and federal staff, tribes, and volunteers, is especially appreciated during this exceptionally intense fire season. The safety of these brave men and women and the residents and communities they protect, is our utmost concern."
In the coming days, federal aviation experts will travel to Montana to work with state officials to review firefighting protocols and develop a plan for operating state helicopters in coordinated firefighting efforts on federal lands.