Supervisors move to boost aerial firefighting force

County to request transfer of seven

federal planes to attack wildfires

County supervisors Dianne Jacob and Greg Cox want to enlist excess military aircraft in the fight against wildfires.

They will ask their colleagues on Tuesday to support a request to the federal Department of Defense to transfer seven C-27 military airplanes to the U.S. Forest Service to bolster aerial firefighting in high-risk areas like San Diego County.

Defense officials have declared many C-27J Spartans as excess, while the forest service is grappling with a shortage of air tankers and is looking to modernize its fleet, the county reports. The C-27J operated in Afghanistan, but the Air Force planned this fall to retire the fleet.

“Rather than end up in an airplane boneyard, these aircraft could serve the American public here on our home front, where the risk of wildfire always runs high,” said Jacob, vice chairwoman of the board. “They would also add muscle to the region’s firefighting capabilities and allow the forest service to get an even bigger jump on backcountry fires before they get out of hand.”

Ramona is among communities in District 2, which Jacob represents.

Cox, chairman of the board, spoke to federal officials about the transfer of the planes during a trip to Washington, D.C. last week. Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, and John McCain, R-Ariz., are among those who have said they would support such a shift.

“We can convert these massive planes, load them up with fire retardant and turn them loose on the next wildfire that threatens our region,” Cox said. “The red flag fire condition the region is facing this weekend is a stark reminder that we have to be prepared for the next wildfire and these planes would be powerful new weapons against these fires.”

The request from Jacob and Cox will be heard at the board of supervisors meeting Tuesday, Oct. 8. The meeting will start at 9 a.m. in the board chambers on the third floor of County Administration Center.

The risk of wildfire in San Diego County usually peaks in the fall. Many of the region’s most catastrophic fires began in October, including the biggest blaze in state history, the Cedar Fire in 2003.

   
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