Proposed bipartisan legislation from two Valley congressmen would jump-start the effort to bring a wildfire-fighting technology used in other parts of the world to the United States.
It’s the very technology that a Fresno company has sold to other countries and the U.S. Air Force for years.
Under the bipartisan Emergency Wildfire Fighting Technology Act, the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture would begin evaluating containerized aerial fire-fighting systems. The bill was authored by congressmen Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and David Valadao (R-Hanford).
Currently, the C-130 planes used by the Air Force need to be outfitted with tanks and compressed air release mechanisms, according to a summary of the bill. Aircraft have to drop water or fire retardant from altitudes as low as 150 feet above the fire to ensure minimal evaporation. This method leaves little room for error or recovery from turbulence or downdrafts, the summary stated.
Delivers Water, Fire Retardant in Disposable Containers
Technology exists to deliver water or fire retardant in disposable containers that can be dropped from the Air Force’s workhorse cargo plane, eliminating the need for tanks and making available more aircraft to fight wildfires. Containers can also be dropped as high as 500 feet above the ground during the day or 1,000 feet at night, allowing 24-hour operations.
But these containers have not been approved for use in the United States.
Watch: How the Guardian Firefighting System Works
“We need to adapt the way we combat these threats and invest in tools like aerial firefighting technology to suppress wildfires,” Costa said in a news release.
In a 2018 GV Wire interview, a Caylym Technologies International executive said the complex bureaucratic process has made getting approval from multiple agencies difficult.
The Fresno-based company manufactures a containerized box that can deliver 1,000 liters of water per box. Some planes can deliver as many as 20 boxes per load and many aircraft don’t need to be modified in order to carry their product.
The Containerized Delivery System has been a longstanding, standard training mission for the U.S. Air Guard and U.S. Air Force, according to the study.
The Guardian has been approved and used commercially in Europe to suppress wildfires since 2013 by countries such as Italy, Romania, and Greece.
“Ahead of wildfire season, we need to ensure our firefighters are equipped with the most up-to-date technology to combat and contain these fires in a quicker, more efficient way,” Valadao said.