Emergency Aircraft Act introduced to improve response to wildfires


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US Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) have introduced legislation to make states eligible to receive excess planes from the Department of Defense (DoD) to increase their wildfire suppression and emergency response capabilities.

The Emergency Aircraft Act would also remove the current cap on how many excess planes DoD can transfer to other federal agencies for wildfire suppression purposes.

Currently, the DoD has a program to transfer excess aircraft to federal agencies for wildfire suppression, but this is capped at transferring only seven aircraft total to each agency. As wildfire fire activity has increased in recent years, states have stepped up and greatly increased their own wildfire suppression capacity.

States should now be allowed to utilise excess DoD aircraft to increase suppression capabilities, put fires out faster, and increase search and rescue capabilities.

The bipartisan Emergency Aircraft Act of 2022 would:

  • Remove the arbitrary cap (currently 7) on how many excess aircraft DOD can transfer to federal agencies for wildfire suppression efforts;
  • Allow states to receive excess DoD aircraft;
  • Expand the uses for these transferred aircraft from just “wildfire suppression purposes” to include purposes of “wildfire suppression, search and rescue, or emergency operations pertaining to wildfires;” and
  • Mandate an annual report from DoD to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on aircraft transferred during the previous fiscal year.

Senator Cramer said: “The Emergency Aircraft Act of 2022 removes arbitrary caps on the transfer of excess military aircraft to the Forest Service, states, and those on the frontline fighting fires. This bill is a no-brainer to aid our wildfire fighting capabilities.”

Senator Padilla said: “After years of increasingly catastrophic wildfires in California, it has become clear that the federal government must do more to support suppression efforts to get fires under control quickly, as well as support search and rescue efforts to keep our communities safe.

Padilla added: “This common sense bill will increase the tools at our disposal, including by allowing states – like California – to secure excess military aircraft to augment our aerial firefighting fleet.”

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