Two Riverside County supervisors want federal lawmakers to transfer 14 Air Force cargo planes being taken out of military service to the U.S. Forest Service for firefighting missions in Southern California.
The Board of Supervisors, currently on summer recess, is expected to take a unanimous stand in support of the Wildfire Suppression Aircraft Transfer Act of 2012.
At its Aug. 28 meeting, the board will consider a resolution urging state and federal lawmakers from California to back the bill, authored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Bill Nelson, D-Florida.
The legislation, S-3441, calls for transferring 14 C-27J Spartans from the Air Force to the Forest Service for fire suppression efforts.
A resolution introduced by Supervisors Bob Buster and Jeff Stone touts the twin-engine Italian-U.S.-made C-27s as an excellent way to “modernize” the Forest Service’s tanker fleet.
“Riverside County relies on the U.S. Forest Service for aerial fire suppression,” Buster said. “Transferring 14 Air Force C-27J Spartans is an excellent way to get Forest Service pilots and crews into airworthy planes in a matter of weeks, not years.”
The planes are slated for decommissioning under the president’s 2013 ”force reduction plan,” according to an introduction to the supervisors’ resolution.
“This move (to transfer aircraft) is absolutely essential to the safety of Riverside County residents and firefighters on the ground,” Stone said. ”The bill will help restore a depleted fleet that has only nine air tankers available to meet the needs of our entire nation.”
According to the supervisors, effecting the transfer would cost taxpayers nothing.
If the resolution passes, the county’s lobbyists in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., would be directed to work on drumming up support for the bill, and county staff would be made available to testify at hearings or provide other assistance that improves the bill’s prospects.