Padilla, Cramer Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Increase Number of Aircraft Available to Fight Wildfires

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the United States grapples with increasingly severe wildfires and natural disasters, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) introduced legislation to make states – including California and North Dakota – eligible to receive excess planes from the Department of Defense (DOD) to increase their wildfire suppression and emergency response capabilities. The Emergency Aircraft Act would also remove the current cap on how many excess planes DOD can transfer to other federal agencies for wildfire suppression purposes.

“After years of increasingly catastrophic wildfires in California, it has become clear that the federal government must do more to support suppression efforts to get fires under control quickly, as well as support search and rescue efforts to keep our communities safe,” said Senator Padilla. “This commonsense bill will increase the tools at our disposal, including by allowing states – like California – to secure excess military aircraft to augment our aerial firefighting fleet.”

“The Emergency Aircraft Act of 2022 removes arbitrary caps on the transfer of excess military aircraft to the Forest Service, states, and those on the frontline fighting fires. This bill is a no-brainer to aid our wildfire fighting capabilities,” said Senator Cramer.

Currently, DOD has a program to transfer excess aircraft to federal agencies for wildfire suppression, but they are arbitrarily capped at transferring only seven aircraft total to each agency. As wildfire fire activity has exploded in the past few years, states have stepped up and greatly increased their own wildfire suppression capacity. States should also be allowed to utilize excess DOD aircraft to increase suppression capabilities, put fires out faster, and increase search and rescue capabilities.

The bipartisan Emergency Aircraft Act of 2022 would:

  • Remove the arbitrary cap (currently 7) on how many excess aircraft DOD can transfer to federal agencies for wildfire suppression efforts;
  • Allow states to receive excess DOD aircraft;
  • Expand the uses for these transferred aircraft from just “wildfire suppression purposes” to include purposes of “wildfire suppression, search and rescue, or emergency operations pertaining to wildfires;”
  • Mandate an annual report from DOD to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on aircraft transferred during the previous fiscal year.

Full text of the bill is available here.


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