OC Register: Alex Padilla and Ken Calvert: A historic victory as C-130s join the fight against wildfires

By Alex Padilla and Ken Calvert

If you’re from California, there’s a good chance you’ve had to pack a fire emergency supply kit before, had to sit down with your kids to make evacuation plans in case of disaster, or even woken up to the smell of fire and checked to see if you were under orders to evacuate.

Californians know the constant threat that wildfires pose. And we know that even in a calmer year for wildfires like this one, we can’t miss an opportunity to add to our arsenal of wildfire suppression tools. With the passage of this year’s annual defense policy bill — the National Defense Authorization Act or “NDAA” — we’re proud to announce we’ve added one more of those lifesaving tools.

Actually, seven of them.

Together, we led the California congressional delegation to cut through red tape and direct the immediate transfer of seven C-130 Hercules aircraft to CalFIRE to help combat wildfires.

These Hercules aircraft are the same massive planes the military has used for six decades to transport troops and cargo, run weather reconnaissance, and conduct medical evacuations and rescue missions. They are also critically used to fight wildfires — valued because they can release 4,000 gallons of water in under five seconds.

Just one of these Hercules aircraft can operate at the level and efficiency of more than three of CalFIRE’s current S-2T tankers. So, this is a monumental development in our efforts to respond to devastating wildfires. And by adding seven more aircraft, we’ll also be able to extend the lifetime of other planes and strengthen our state’s ability to react to ever more frequent, more dangerous wildfires.

But for all their promise, it was far from guaranteed that these lifesaving resources would actually come to California. Five years ago, Congress passed a bill directing the federal government to modify and transfer seven of the Coast Guard’s Hercules aircraft to California. Yet for five years, contracting delays and red tape prevented our communities from receiving the protection they desperately needed.

Our amendment will finally end the wait and start helping protect communities. But we didn’t do this alone. This legislation represents the culmination of years of bipartisan efforts, first initiated by the late U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and John McCain. Other champions include the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Senator John Boozman, R-Arkansas, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and CalFIRE Director Joe Tyler.
This achievement is a bipartisan success story, and a landmark moment in the history of California’s wildfire fight.

Moving forward, we remain committed to championing the needs of our constituents, bringing parties in Congress together, and making sure that our brave firefighters have the resources they need to protect our communities. We can and will build a safer and more resilient system of managing forests and other wildlands that protects communities, farmlands, and our precious natural resources.

And we’ll make sure that the next time a crisis comes to our communities, California will be better prepared to meet it.

Read the full article here.

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