USA: California is seeking the help of the U.S. military to gain access to necessary technologies that could prevent another destructive and deadly fire season.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that the California government has secured the cooperation of the U.S. Department of Defense in its fight against wildfires. He said the Pentagon agreed to provide information from Cold War-era military satellite to spot brush fires on the ground.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has also given his blanket approval for California’s National Guard to use the DoD’s fleet of unmanned drones to map out wildfires, look for survivors, and keep track of destroyed properties in affected areas.
“We finally got a breakthrough with the Pentagon,” Newsom said.
The governor made the announcement during the opening of California’s Emergency Management Preparedness Summit, which was designed to allow state and local officials to better prepare for possible wildfires and other disasters.
Fighting Wildfires In California
Wildfire season has been particularly devastating for both California residents and the environment. The fire that swept through the wooded town of Paradise in the northern part of the state last November was the deadliest in California’s modern history. The inferno killed 85 people and left a swath of destruction.
Officials have been trying to figure out ways on how to avoid a similar disaster from happening again. Utility companies have set plans to shut down power throughout areas affected by high winds and low humidity to avoid wildfires from starting.
Meanwhile, the California government is seeking about $1 billion-worth of funding from state lawmakers to combat potential fires in the future.
Adjutant Gen. David Baldwin, head of the California Guard’s air and army branches, said state officials have stumbled upon satellite technology that was developed during the Cold War that may be used to pinpoint small brush fires before they turn into larger, more destructive wildfires.
He said soldiers and airmen will be assigned to monitor developments around the clock to let CalFire, the state’s firefighting agency, know if wildfires break out.
Cooperation Between California And The Pentagon
California’s efforts to prevent wildfires by thinning forests have been heavily criticized by U.S. Pres. Donald Trump. However, Newsom downplayed the reported tension between the California government and the White House, saying that the state is finding ways to cooperate well with the Trump administration.
“We’re just working more collaboratively with the federal government on technology and procuring access to technology that we haven’t had access before, for fires primarily,” the governor said.
“Leading edge technology – that’s the bottom line.”
Aside from providing satellite technology to support firefighting efforts in California, Shanahan also gave the state’s National Guard access to unmanned drones on any of CalFire’s operations through the end of the year.
While the drones have been used for firefighting missions periodically since 2013, state officials had to secure separate approval from the DoD each time they needed access to the devices. Shanahan’s go-ahead will now allow them to deploy the drones whenever necessary throughout the duration of the agreement.