The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill that would significantly increase the number of available assets to combat wildfires by updating protocols for aerial fire fighting systems.
Representatives David Valadao (R–Hanford) and Jim Costa (D–Fresno) authored the Emergency Wildfire Fighting Technology Act, which will take advantage of firefighting technology that was developed in Fresno.
The big picture: The Emergency Wildfire FIghting Technology Act requires the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior to conduct an evaluation of the Containerized Aerial Fire Fighting System (CAFFS).
- That will lead to the Forest Service being allowed to use new technologies to fight wildfires, namely new developments with how aerial retardants are deployed.
- The Bill passed the House on Tuesday and heads to the Senate for approval.
Why it matters: CAFFS are airdrop-capable disposable containers for water or fire retardant, and they can be dropped from much higher altitudes and with less visibility.
- While this technology is used in other countries, the U.S. has yet to follow suit.
- The legislation is a win for Caylym Technologies, a Fresno-based company that has designed an aerial retardant firefighting system – known as the Guardian – that does not require any aircraft modifications. That means any standard cargo plane can be used to fight fires. Currently, only single-mision aircraft are used in firefighting operations.
- According to Caylym Technologies, the U.S. currently has a wildfire fighting capacity of 740,480. Capacity would increase to over two million gallons if its firefighting system is used.
What they’re saying: Rich Goddard, managing director of Caylym Technologies, said the company has been working for nearly a decade to overcome bureaucratic challenges at the Forest Service to implement better firefighting technology.
- “Caylym Technologies’ “Guardian” is capable of dropping a series of large containers of water or retardant that open mid-air to fight wildfires or can be used to pre-treat areas at high risk of wildfire,” Goddard said. “Our solution for combatting and preventing wildfires has been adopted across the globe but, because of the federal government’s refusal to complete necessary testing, it is not currently available in the United States.”
- Goddard called the House’s passage of the bill a “massive step in the right direction” and a “long-awaited victory.”
- Cole Rojewski, partner at advocacy and lobbying firm RBW Group, praised Valadao and Costa for uniting a bipartisan coalition to pass the bill through the House.
- “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to these esteemed members for their invaluable support and unwavering commitment to preventing and mitigating wildfires,” Rojewski said. “In order to protect our forestlands and communities from catastrophic wildfires, our wildland firefighters need access to cutting-edge, innovative technology, public-private partnerships, and every tool in the toolbox. This includes access to aerial fire retardants and resources to increase forest management for expedited fuels reduction. The war against wildfires is a massive undertaking, but thanks to Representatives David Valadao and Jim Costa, we gained impressive ground today.”