CAL FIRE to add more firefighters, engines, tractors and helicopters

It will add 1503 personnel, 27 engines, 4 helicopters and 10 tractors

File photo of a new tractor and transport for the Nevada Yuba Placer unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. CAL FIRE photo, March 2019.

The new California budget that was signed into law on June 30 by Governor Gavin Newsom includes a massive increase for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2022.

The budget allows for 11,293 jobs, a 13% increase from 1,503 employees.

To add to the 12 new S70i Firehawk helicopters funded two years ago, they will spend $99 million to purchase 4 additional aircraft to help maintain continuous flight operations during critical weather conditions when the frontline helicopters are ready for service.

In addition, $45 million is allocated annually for the next three years to secure exclusive use (EU) contracts for 10 additional helicopter carriers while awaiting federal delivery of seven former Coast Guard C-130 air carriers that have been waiting over the past nine years for the Air Force. American to convert them to air carriers with drop inhibitors.

CAL FIRE Director Joe Tyler told Fire Aviation in March that the integration of the seven former Coast Guard C-130 aircraft into the state’s air carrier fleet may be pushed back to 2024 due to pandemic/endemic and supply chain issues. This is despite the Agency’s efforts to try to facilitate movement in the project. He said they had been hoping to see some C-130s flying over the fire this year. CAL FIRE is working with the Coast Guard, Air Force and the contractor that will install the damper delivery system, Coulson Aviation.

California Conservation Corps (CCC) and California Department of Defense (CMD) Hand Staff
$104 million and 238 jobs starting now, and $50 million and 270 jobs approved in phases over five years. Eight additional hand crews will be added throughout the year and 16 hand crews will be converted seasonal to year-round.

Four current CAL FIRE/CCC seasonal hand crews will be converted to year-round staff in July 2022 and the remaining remaining seasonal crew members will be assigned from January 2023. In these hand crews, two Temporary Fire Captains (FC) per manual crew are replaced With three permanent FC teams and three new FAEs added to each hand crew. In total, 18 FCs and 18 FAEs will employ all six hand crews.

Ten seasonal CMD hand kits will be converted to year-round and four year-round CMD kits will be added for statewide response and fuel reduction projects.

Engines and Bulldozers
$36 million will be used to purchase over-capacity fire engines and bulldozers. This will add two additional engines in each of the 21 units and six contract counties, as well as an additional 10 buckets. These resources will be available to staff during times of resource drawdown and critical fire activity.

About $9 million will be used to hire support staff for the Firehawk program and positions for European Union helicopters,

July to December increase fire protection
One-time funding of $83.1 million is available to increase fire protection resources from July to December 2022 in view of trends associated with climate change and current drought conditions, increased fire intensity and size, and declining guest camp populations. It will be used to extend the crew of 16 additional CAL FIRE firefighters through December 2022, as well as support and training staff.

author: Bill Jabert

After working full-time in prairie fires for 33 years, he continues to learn, striving to be a student of fire. Looking at all of Bill Gabert’s posts

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