LaMalfa: USFS commits to correcting firefighting contract issues

Congressman Doug LaMalfa issued the following statement after the U.S. Forest Service committed to correcting the Virtual Incident Procurement (VIPR) contracting issues in USFS Region 5.

The USFS uses the VIPR system to contract for all firefighting resources not associated with a fire department including water tenders and other heavy equipment.

According to the statement from LaMalfa, “For the 2020 fire season, Region 5 failed to meet its contracting goals meaning there were insufficient resources to call upon when the number of fires exploded. After Congressman LaMalfa and local contractors met with U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Jim Hubbard earlier this month to discuss contracting issues, direct action was taken by the Trump Administration to begin to correct the problem for firefighting contractors in California.”

“After visiting many of the major fires across the North State this fall, one thing is clear, there was a significant lack of personnel and resources to quickly fight these fires,” LaMalfa said. “At the North Complex Fire in Quincy, I was told they had the amount of personnel and equipment that they would normally have on a 500-acre fire, but this fire was already over 17,000 acres. While firefighters were able to do some heroic structure protection, they didn’t have the number of personnel and equipment they needed to aggressively fight the spread of the rest of the fire.

“Our region’s failure to fill VIPR contracts this year has led to a severe lack of equipment and fire personnel. That failure made the wildfire destruction in California much worse. When my office and local contractors met with Secretary Hubbard and the Forest Service in Red Bluff, we expressed our concerns and frustrations with contracts going unfilled that left our communities vulnerable. Thanks to that meeting, Under Secretary Hubbard and the Forest Service are taking action to begin to remedy the VIPR contracting problems and issuing emergency contracts. The Trump administration continues to be supportive of our firefighting efforts every step of the way, and I’m glad to see them working to resolve this issue. My office will continue to monitor progress and ensure corrections are made for next year’s contracting process through VIPR.”