Two members of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors tomorrow will propose asking the military to immediately transfer as many as seven excess aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service for aerial firefighting purposes in the region.
Air Force officials plan to retire the C27 aircraft this fall and make them available to the Forest Service, which, according to Supervisors Greg Cox and Dianne Jacob, has a "dire" shortage of firefighting planes.
However, they said final decisions regarding the transfer have been delayed. Since the aircraft will need to be retrofitted to take on their new role, the transfer needs to happen sooner rather than later, according to the supervisors.
"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 (faced this past) 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."
Cox discussed the proposed transfer with officials in Washington, D.C., last week. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and John McCain, R-Ariz., have said they would support such a shift, according to Cox's office.
Jacob said the planes would let the Forest Service "get an even bigger jump on backcountry fires before they get out of hand."
The military has already transferred some of the twin-propeller cargo aircraft to the U.S. Coast Guard.
-- City News Service