Wyden, Merkley: Oregon Company Secures $70 Million Federal Contract for Air Tankers to Fight Wildfires

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today that Hillsboro-based Erickson Aero Tanker has earned a $70.5 million federal contract for next-generation large air tanker services to support wildland firefighting in Oregon and nationwide.

“The blazes that devastated so much of Oregon this year unfortunately provide the latest example of the urgent need to build a comprehensive arsenal of tools to fight wildfires in our state and the entire country,” Wyden said. “Air tankers are an essential piece of that arsenal and I’m glad Erickson Aero Tanker has earned this contract that will help keep Oregon communities safe while also generating good jobs in Washington County.”

“I drove hundreds of miles across Oregon as this year’s unprecedented wildfires raged, and I saw unfathomable destruction and hazardous smoke at every turn,” said Merkley, who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the USDA. “This year was a devastating reminder of just how important it is that we have every possible tool—including airtankers—at the ready to keep our communities safe from future blazes. I’m pleased that this funding is headed to our state, and I’m going to keep doing everything I can to make sure we’re not only prepared, but taking urgently needed steps to reduce the risk of more catastrophic wildfires.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the air tankers for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) will provide modern aerial firefighting support delivering retardant throughout the United States.

“We are very pleased that the USFS has selected two of our MD-87 fire bombers under the NextGen 3.0 contract for large airtankers,” said Erickson Aero Tanker general manager Matt Isley. “With this contract, Erickson Aero Tanker will have four MD-87s under exclusive use contracts with two more available for call-when-needed emergency use. This fire season, our tankers — including our DC-7 tanker in Oregon — have dropped over 6.5 million gallons of water or retardant on fires in 13 states.

“We are proud to be an integral part of saving lives and property in the hardest-hit areas of Oregon and the rest of the country,” Isley said. “We are extremely grateful for the support from Senators Wyden and Merkley in their efforts to ensure that the western U.S. has much-needed firefighting assets in place for years to come.”

A web version of this release is here.