USA — Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and more than a dozen Members of the House and Senate this week sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting an update on plans to transfer surplus military aircraft to the Forest Service to fight wildfires. The Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act gives the Forest Service priority in obtaining up to seven aircraft deemed excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.
The transfer authority was based on a bill sponsored by Senator McCain and Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA) during the 112th Congress, known as the Wildfire Suppression Aircraft Transfer Act of 2012 (S. 3441/H.R. 6248), which proposed giving several C-27J Spartan aircraft to the Forest Service. At that time, the U.S. Air Force announced it would begin divesting the C-27J, which the Forest Service concurrently identified as a modern platform capable of multiple wildland fire missions. The C-27J Spartan is a medium-sized fixed-wing aircraft first produced in 2007 which the Forest Service would use for smokejumper and cargo delivery, fire crew transport and aerial application of fire retardant.
This week, the federal governments National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) issued a warning for significant fire activity for states on the West Coast and in the Southwest, as well as portions of Idaho and Montana. The NIFC predicts that the fire season in the Southwest will start sooner than normal and that California will reach its peak potential in July due to receiving only 40 percent of normal rainfall over the winter. See NIFCs report: http://www.nifc.gov/nicc/predictive/outlooks/outlooks.htm