SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — As California battles the worst wildfire season on record, one man thinks he has the solution by beefing up air support to get to fires faster.
“This is common sense. Get overwhelming force on a fire. Douse it before it becomes an inferno that is incredibly difficult to put out,” said John Cox, Chairman for C.H.A.N.G.E-CA.
He calls it the “Air Armada,” an army of air support with at least 60 aircraft ready at a moment’s notice to fly over fires. Cox ran for governor in 2018 and is the Chairman of C.H.A.N.G.E California, a non-partisan group that works with voters on quality of life issues. He wants to divert funding from the state’s controversial $80 billion high-speed rail project that would connect travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles to pay for the extra resources.
“We take some of that money that is being spent on that train, which is way behind schedule and is going to be obsolete before it’s started, take that money and buy or lease airplanes,” Cox explained.
The High-Speed Rail Authority declined to comment on the idea.
Cal Fire has more than 50 aircraft and is adding to its fleet. The department says they can reach most fires in under 30 minutes. If extra support is needed, contracts are in place to help.
“The reason why we have our Air Force, which is the largest in the world, is our aircrafts are very nimble, get into tight spaces. They get to the incident within 20 minutes and are able to attack it right away,” said Cal Fire spokesperson Scott Mclean.
Mclean said depending on what’s fueling the fire, visibility issues and wind direction, adding more help from above doesn’t always help.
“There are too many different aspects that are involved. We would like to see more aircraft, but there is a point where too many is too much,” Mclean explained.
Cox said with more than 4 million acres burned in the state’s worst fire season on record, more help is needed.
“I think it is clear it is not enough. I think the results speak for themselves,” Cox said.