Udall wants newer air tankers

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said Thursday the U.S. Forest Service announcement that it has awarded two companies contracts for eight large air tankers for fighting wildfires this year is welcome news.

But Udall said he will insist on acquiring next-generation air tankers.

"Air tankers are critical firefighting resources that can save lives and prevent small blazes from becoming catastrophic wildfires." Udall said in a statement. "The Forest Service decision to award these contracts is a step in the right direction, but I plan to keep fighting to get the next-generation air tankers it needs to update its Korean War-era fleet."

Udall has long called for the Forest Service and the U.S. Air Force to secure air tankers for the 2013 fire season. He also urged private contractors in February to respect the decision to award contracts to more than one company.

He also championed a bipartisan amendment to the 2014 budget to add $100 million for wildland firefighting.