Cal Fire’s arsenal to combat wildfires is looking to get bigger. Members of the  U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives have recently authorized the expedited transfer of seven C-130 aircraft from the U.S. Coast Guard to the California agency to be used for wildfire suppression, search and rescue and emergency operations related to wildfires. 

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“Adding seven C-130s to California’s aerial firefighting force is a truly remarkable advancement,” said Matt Dias, president and CEO of the California Forestry Association. “We must continue to prioritize forest management and wildfire prevention but vigorous and efficient suppression forces are needed in trying times as well.”

The recent bipartisan effort was led by U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-41). The legislation’s key transfer provision is included in both the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2024, according to the California Forestry Association.

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From a retardant delivery perspective, a single C-130 is equivalent to six S-2T airtankers currently in use by Cal Fire. In service for more than 60 years, the C-130 is a workhorse of military aircraft, used for troop transportation, medical evacuation, search and rescue, weather reconnaissance and many other functions. Similar C-130s are already in use and have demonstrated their superior capability to drop 3,000 gallons (weighing 28,000 pounds) in less than five seconds.

“The addition of the C-130s will undoubtedly enhance the states aerial firefighting capabilities,” said Tyler, director and fire chief of Cal Fire. According to Tyler, “These critical assets will aid in reducing the loss of life and property while protecting our natural resources and private timberlands. I look forward to these aircraft joining Cal Fire’s world-renowned aerial firefighting force.”

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