As the California wildfire season begins to head into its most critical months, Gov. Gavin Newsom met with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to discuss the need for better tools to battle fires in the state.
On Saturday, Newsom, alongside Sen. Alex Padilla, announced on Twitter that firefighting crews across the state will soon have a new weapon in their arsenal starting next year.
Seven C-130 planes from the United States Department of Defense will be allocated for California for the purpose of fighting brush fires in the nation’s most populous state.
Newsom met with Padilla, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and leaders from the Defense Department in Washington to discuss climate-driven wildfires in the state and request access to better technology and increased partnership between the state and the federal government during wildfire season.
They also discussed the state’s desire to have better access to excess military aircraft which could help California firefighters on the ground in their efforts to combat brush fires, which have proven to be a growing threat to life and property.
Newsom said Saturday that the seven aircraft are officially on the Defense Department’s schedule for 2023, with the expected delivery to be sometime around the end of next summer.
Despite being the most populated state in the nation, and one of the state’s with the highest fire dangers, California has often had to borrow firefighting aircraft from the federal government, other states and, in some cases, other countries.
The C-130 aircraft is “capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas,” according to the United States Air Force. But the massive military transport planes can be retrofitted and modified to serve multiple purposes, including wildfire suppression.
Padilla said the delivery of the seven aircraft is hopefully just the beginning, with more of the firefighting planes possibly available in the coming years.
“Trying to prevent wildfires, mitigating wildfires, responding from wildfires, is one of the ways the federal government and state government has to work together,” Padilla said.
Newsom has regularly lamented the nation’s lack of firefighting aircraft available and his office has prioritized expanding California’s aircraft options, including adding 12 Blackhawk helicopters to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s fleet.
This week’s meeting between California lawmakers and the DOD also included discussion about satellite and drone technology for use in brush fire battles, as well as “streamlining the National Guard’s firefighting capabilities and the Department of Defense’s coordination with state firefighters.”