Conway addresses California wildfires during short term congressional stay

Rep. Connie Conway tackles wildfire issues at congressional meeting with other Committee Republicans, wildfire experts

TULARE COUNTY – Congresswoman Connie Conway entered office for the current 22nd district knowing she has only a few months to serve. But in that time she is taking on some of her district’s most dire challenges, chief of which is wildfires.

During a meeting over the dire circumstances of California’s forests, Conway was joined by wildfire experts from across the country, including the chief executive officer of Fresno’s Caylym Technologies International.

“Alarmingly, this wildfire season is on pace to become the worst season on record. For decades, forest agencies have either failed to implement fundamental wildfire prevention measures or have been prevented from doing so by environmental regulations,” Congresswoman Conway said during the July 21 meeting. “Our forests deserve better. We urgently need to use every available tool and technology to stop these devastating wildfires.”

The meeting was attended by wildfire experts across the country, including Rick Goddard, chief executive officer of Caylym Technologies, a manufacturer in Fresno that enables more aircraft to fight wildfires in a quick and low-cost manner. Participants at the forum discussed the causes and catastrophic events of wildfires and supplied some potential solutions to prevent more fires from happening.

Goddard said California’s history of destructive wildfires is well known, which is why the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the U.S. Forest Service have some of the most advanced firefighting operations in the nation. Still, they must make the decision of which homes or communities to save and which ones succumb to the fires.

“I applaud this group for highlighting such an important issue in our country–in terms of the devastating loss of life, the tragic loss of homes and businesses and the profound and awful destruction and contamination of our environment,” Goddard said.

According to Goddard, factors that are contributing to the wildfires seen in California are climate aspects, like the drought and extreme heat, natural interaction, like dry lightning and lightning strikes and careless human interaction in general. He also said that forest trees have been ravaged by bark beetles that are not native to California, which kills trees and makes them more susceptible to wildfires. 

The best potential solution to combating wildfires, according to Goddard, is prevention. There’s mechanical thinning, clearing downed timber and brush and thinning out the forest floor. Goddard also said a tool from Caylym Technologies, the Guardian, could help contain and extinguish wildfires but said the system is not currently utilized by the U.S. Forest Service in combating wildfires.

The Guardian is a product that includes attaching 16 to 20, thousand liter containers of water onto an aircraft and dispensing them to create a rain-like effect. Goddard said Caylym has been delivering this product overseas since 2014. Over the weekend of July 22 to 24, the product aided with fires in Eastern Europe, Slovakia, Romania and Greece. Despite this and a passed evaluation from the National Air Guard and Air Force, the Fire Service has refused use of the product.

“Here’s a system that’s produced in Fresno, California, shipped all over the world to fight wildfires,” Goddard said. “It isn’t used here in our own state in our own country. That’s kind of crazy.”

The steps to wildfire preparedness according to the CAL FIRE website are defensible space inspections, which acts as a buffer around the home, home hardening, which replaces construction components with ignition-resistant materials, emergency evacuation planning, fire prevention education and fire hazard severity mapping. 

Additional steps towards wildfire preparedness according to CAL FIRE is the implementation of the Strategic Fire Plan for California, fire-related law enforcement activities, like investigations to determine fire cause, origin or arson cases and support for local government fire safe planning in the State Responsibility Area.

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