Bipartisan efforts fly firefighting technology to new heights

The Emergency Wildfire Fighting Technology Act highlights resourceful and efficient methods for combating wildfires

WASHINGTON D.C. –  In a display of bipartisanship, two Valley congressmen worked together to enhance wildfire fighting technology. Congressman Jim Costa and Congressman David Valadeo introduced a new bill to help combat wildfires more effectively.

Some of California’s largest and most destructive wildfires have happened in the last five years, highlighting the urgent need to invest in alternative firefighting systems. Both congressmen with bordering districts decided to introduce the Emergency Wildfire Fighting Technology Act.

“California’s wildfires have devastated homes, businesses, communities, and ecosystems throughout our state,” Congressman Valadao said via press release. “Ahead of wildfire season, we need to ensure our firefighters are equipped with the most up-to-date technology to combat and contain these fires in a quicker, more efficient way.”

The new bill would require the secretary of agriculture and the secretary of the interior to evaluate whether to use the container aerial firefighting system (CAFFS) to mitigate and suppress wildfires. Technologies such as CAFFS enable additional aircrafts to come alongside firefighters to provide a rapid surge of the full spectrum of water or fire suppressant as a direct attack on the live fire. This helps attack the fire at early detection, even in remote areas.

This significant advancement dramatically increases the number of available airlift assets for wildfire emergencies. The CAFFS permits safe 24-hour operations, expanding aircraft options and empowering firefighting crews to combat wildfires around the clock.

“It would build upon the resources already available. This technology has been around for a while, but it just hasn’t been implemented yet. With this legislation, it’s hopeful that we can push up that process and ensure that communities that are preparing for wildfires have this technology in place,” Anthony Camacho, press secretary for Congressman Costa’s office, said.

Currently, aerial firefighting systems for C-130 planes rely on tanks and compressed air release mechanisms. The introduction of the Containerized Aerial Fire Fighting System (CAFFS) overcomes these limitations. This allows for the deployment of airdrop-capable disposable containers for water or fire retardant.

Even though rain has increased in 2023, more water doesn’t necessarily mean fires will be less severe. Back in 2020, storms led to more vegetation, which later dried and helped to fuel the worst wildfire season in state history.

According to the National Park Services website, The Castle Fire of 2020 killed between 10-14% of the Sequoia tree population in the Sierra Nevadas. Not so coincidentally California recorded its worst fire season in 2020 with about 4.2 million estimated acres burned.

“We need to adapt the way we combat these threats and invest in tools like aerial firefighting technology to suppress wildfires. I’m hopeful this legislation can help better protect our communities,” Congressman Costa said .

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