Senator Feinstein Asks Secretary Gates to Station Two Military C-130 Aircraft In California for Swift Response to West Coast Wildfires
May 22 2008
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to station two C-130H aircraft at Point Mugu, California, for quick response to wildfires along the West Coast this fire season.
Senator Feinstein’s request follows news that newer C-130J aircraft, promised to be delivered this month for air tanker duty, will not be available during the 2008 fire season.
Following is the text of Senator Feinstein’s letter:
May 21, 2008
The Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Dear Secretary Gates,
I write to follow up on a conversation we had yesterday before the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
At the hearing I explained that the two Modular Aerial Fire Fighting Systems II (MAFFS) units for the California Air National Guard’s C-130Js will not be ready for the 2008 fire season. This is contrary to a commitment made to me by Undersecretary Mark Rey of the Department of Agriculture at a field hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior last November. The result will be that tens of millions of Californians will not have access to this important firefighting resource for yet another year.
In lieu of the newer C-130J/MAFFSII combination, I request that the Department of Defense relocate two C-130Hs to Point Mugu, CA, home of the California Air National Guard’s 146th Wing, for operation with the two MAFFS I units already located there. By relocating the C-130Hs to Point Mugu, the Department of Defense will be able respond quickly and efficiently to fires on the West Coast.
The need for these planes, Mr. Secretary, is great. California again faces extremely hazardous fire conditions; and early rains, followed by hot, dry conditions, have caused thousands of acres of brush to become tinder dry. Ruben Grijalva, the chief of our state fire agency, has informed me that fuel conditions are worse than last year and in some regions of the Sierras and the Southern Mountains, they are worse than at any point in the 27 years since they began taking these measurements.
Unless the Department intervenes, the California Air National Guard will be without this critical asset for another year. California has two MAFFS I units ready to go, but the California Air National Guard has no C-130Hs to attach them to. The closest aircraft are almost a thousand miles away and it will take nearly a whole day for them to be deployable in my state. There is no question if these aircraft will be needed in California. The only question is when they will be needed.
Thank you for your swift consideration, and I look forward to your prompt response.
United States Senator