More Firefighting Aircraft Secured For Use In Montana

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) -- An interagency fire group secured more aircraft Thursday to fight wildfires in Montana and northern Idaho in response to the grounding of 33 air tankers.

The U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department in May canceled contracts for the aging heavy air tankers, citing safety concerns. Six of those craft would have patrolled the northern Rockies, said Rodd Richardson, a member of the Northern Rockies Coordinating Group and aviation director for the Forest Service Northern Region.

They are being replaced by an additional 14 helicopters, nine single-engine air tankers and two water scooping aircraft for wildfires in the two states, he said. The aircraft may be moved to other parts of the country to meet demands, he said.