Officials Seek Military Planes Set for Retirement to Fight Fires

New efforts were underway Tuesday to prepare San Diego County for the next big wildfire. 

Tuesday morning, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to move forward with a formal request asking the Department of Defense to transfer out-of-use military aircraft to the United States Forest Service to help battle wildfires.

The decision was made at a 9 a.m. meeting at the County Administration Center in Downtown.

At the meeting, County Supervisors Greg Cox and Dianne Jacob asked their fellow board members to support the request which will ask military officials to transfer up seven C-27J Spartan airplanes to the U.S. Forest Service.

Those planes, which once operated in Afghanistan, are currently slated to be retired by the Air Force, according to officials.

Each board member agreed the excess aircrafts would be put to better use fighting wildfires in high-risk areas such as San Diego, where just this past weekend several wildfires sparked amid a three-day red flag warning.

“Rather than end up in an airplane bone-yard, these aircraft could serve the American public here on our home front, where the risk of wildfire always runs high,” said Jacob, vice chairwoman of the board, in a media release.

“They would also add muscle to the region’s firefighting capabilities and allow the Forest Service to get an even bigger jump on backcountry fires before they get out of hand," Jacob added.

If approved, the transferred planes would greatly benefit the Forest Service which is currently experiencing a shortage of air tankers while also trying to modernize its fleet, officials said.

Support for the move is growing.

During a trip to Washington, D.C. last week, Supervisor Cox spoke to federal officials about the issue and Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Ca., and John McCain, R-Ariz. were said to be among those in the nation's capital who supported the idea.

A formal request to the DoD should occur within the next few days or weeks, according to county officials.

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