California's fire fighting air force grows substantially

Today, Governor Newsom and former Governor Schwarzenegger inspected the first of a huge addition of vastly improved firefighting aircraft at McClellan Air Base in Sacramento.

California's need for newer, better, faster aircraft to respond of any wild fire in 20 minutes or less got a leg up today.

With the new aircraft additions, Cal Fire goes from having not only the largest aerial firefighting fleet in the nation, but now the world.

The two Governors represent the twelve years needed to beef up California's firefighting assets, on the ground or overhead that have been sorely lacking.

"So many times we had to study the weather and figure out, "Where should we send our assets? Should we send it south? Should we sent it north? Should we send it to the Central Valley? Where should we send it? But we didn't have enough for every place in California. And so, we really put together a Blue Ribbon to study, 'What do we need to do?'"said former Governor Schwarzenegger.

"We are not gonna have the kind of year we had last year and this is important. We had 361 requests for air support last year, in 2018, that we could not meet, 361 requests because we didn't have the tools, we didn't have the technology, we didn't have the equipment," Said Governor Newsom.

Seven C-130's, former military cargo/troop aircraft, are being converted to firefighting to be available beginning in 2021.

Compared to the current 1,200 gallon fire retardant tankers that Cal Fire has used for decades and will continue in use, the big C-130's, carry 4,000 gallons, allowing for more time over fires making several drops each run.

"And, that's what we always hope for. If they're able to paint multiple short passes in these urbanized areas were operating in and so having the ability to make multiple short passes to paint the fire into a box is very, very helpful from our perspective, said Moraga-Orinda Fire District Chief Dave Winnacker.

Winnacker says on the ground, projects such as the North Orinda Shaded Fuel Break see fire crews rapidly clearing decades of brush, over a 17 mile area, to sharply reduce runaway fires near structures.

Also coming, a fleet of former military, twin engine Blackhawk helicopters can carry 1,000 gallons of retardant.

That's almost three times more retardant to locations much more quickly, than Cal Fire's Vietnam-era Huey choppers that can carry only 340 gallons of retardant.

"And as a consequence, you're gonna save a substantial amount of money on the back end on emergency declaration, on addressing the issue of recovery and obviously issues related to size and scope of fires," said Governor Newsom.

The Federal government is also making unmanned surveillance aircraft as well as satellite surveillance available to find, track and predict fire spread.