Montana Governor complains that some state helicopters are barred from working on USFS fires

Below is an excerpt from an article at Newsmax:

Montana’s governor on Friday [August 21] called on federal officials to lift what he called nonsensical restrictions that bar the state from using some of its helicopters to fight nearly a dozen major wildfires burning largely out of control across the state. Governor Steve Bullock, who declared a state of emergency earlier this week authorizing use of National Guard troops and aircraft along with state firefighters and helicopters, said in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the federal rules were unnecessary obstacles to fighting the fires.

“I am doing my part to mobilize every available firefighting resource at my disposal, and make them available to all fire protection agencies,” Bullock said in the letter. “I encourage you to do your part by directing leadership within your respective agencies to rescind this unnecessary and artificial restriction on Montana aircraft as soon as possible.”

Bullock spokesman Mike Wessler said U.S. fire managers barred the use of UH-1H helicopters over federal land because they have objected to modifications to the state’s fleet that made them faster and able to carry more water.

The Democratic governor added, “I continue to be frustrated by this unwarranted and artificial limitation on interagency use of our aircraft.”

On August 22 we asked the U.S. Forest Service for their reaction to the story. On August 24  we were given this statement issued by their Northern Region:

The Northern Region of the Forest Service values the professionalism and fire-fighting support it receives from its partnership with the State of Montana. The Forest Service and the State of Montana Department [sic] have different standards and regulations to which each must adhere. Federal agencies, including the Forest Service, follow federal operational aviation safety standards that prescribe minimum specifications for the types of aircraft. These performance specifications provide an industry recognized margin of safety.

UPDATE September 23, 2015: Representatives from three Montana helicopter companies express their opinions on the issue.

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5 thoughts on “Montana Governor complains that some state helicopters are barred from working on USFS fires”

  1. Here we go again

    Spell FEPP and maybe understand why that those free military aircraft are not free

    Then understand that the BLR FastFin has an FAA STC for UH1 Huey modification.

    Sooooioi when you modify an aircraft not entirely in your own ownership or when one agency USFS is not contacting the military. ..who in effect ..are still the real owners…then you are going to have problems

    Somebody prove me wrong…other if this is the BLR mod…..then some folks in the LMA world may have not a FULL understanding of the FEPP program

  2. Not sure what you’re getting at Leo…

    From what I understand (and it’s a bit outdated info I’m running off of), the current issue is with performance charts… the DNRC uses a +3% min spec chart, which the USFS doesn’t accept. At least that was what I was told at a manager refresher meeting this spring in R1. I don’t believe the MT-205s have the BLR fast fin or strakes, but it’s been a few years since I last saw one up close and personal.

  3. Ok Justin

    Question becomes …did MT get their UH1’s through the traditional FEPP channels? Did they outright buy them from GSA auction? Did they buy them from other civilian sources

    Aircraft modification are an everyday thing as long as it is covered by FAA STC but it may not be by FEPP rules.

    I looked at the FEPP book online…vague …and somebody needs to address aircraft mods depending on the source aircraft cane from…..FEPP equipment in most cases, especially aircraft are still governed by FAA and the military. From reading FEPP, the aircraft are sub hand reciept ed to State Foresters and are subject to recall and quite possibly folks do not understand the details.

    Aircraft mods could be in that realm …but mods as long as they are covered by FAA STC may or may not be mentioned and folks may need to confer with the military on what is permissible on the airframes

  4. Pull pitch, put the fire out and send the Feds a bill. A few times doing that and they will open their eyes.

  5. Nothing new here.

    “Federal agencies must develop an understanding of the use of nonfederally contracted aircraft by local agencies. Federal policy restrictions do not apply to aircraft utilization by local agencies and their personnel.”

    Lower North Fork Wildfire Review
    USDA Forest Service
    Feb 19, 2013

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