New CAL FIRE wildfire fighting planes expected to be ready to go in the fall

California is beginning to retrofit the planes to be used to fight wildfires with immense fire retardant capabilities.

CAL FIRE’s new planes aimed at helping the state fight wildfires will be in service this fall. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this week that the state has acquired seven new C-130 aircraft. 


The backstory: Last year Congress authorized the expedited transfer of the aircraft from the Coast Guard to CAL FIRE. 

  • The transfer came under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024. 
  • Currently CAL FIRE uses S-2T Airtankers. One C-130 aircraft delivers over three times more fire retardant than the S-2T. 

The big picture: Newsom announced the C-130s have been acquired by the state and are beginning to be retrofitted to fight wildfires. 

  • The first of the aircraft is expected to begin operations in the fall. 
  • CAL FIRE will equip each C-130 with a 4,000 gallon retardant delivery system. 
  • Five of the planes will be deployed to bases in Chico, Fresno, Paso Robles, Ramona and Sacramento. The two others will be used for surge capacity and maintaining response capabilities during mandatory maintenance cycles. 

What they’re saying: “We’re putting more planes in the sky and boots on the ground than ever before to protect Californians from the threat of devastating wildfires,” Newsom said. “These new C-130H aircraft, when they’re modified to fight fires, will significantly boost our capabilities.”

  • Matt Dias, the President and CEO of Calforests, said the transfer of the planes marks a pivotal stride in enhancing California’s capacity to combat and control wildfires. 
  • “By quickly getting these aircraft into the fleet, we will expect to see significant contributions to our state’s firefighting capabilities, and it brings encouraging news for the residents of California,” Dias said. “This progress is a testament to the positive outcomes achievable through bipartisan support especially from the late Senator Feinstein’s leadership.” 
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