Guard planes not yet equipped to fight wildfires

Natural Disasters Posted on

Despite pressure from elected officials and the military, the Bush administration has yet to equip some California National Guard planes for firefighting — a delay that could have grave implications during the worst of the wildfire season.

After last year's devastating blazes killed 10 people, charred 800 square miles and destroyed nearly 2,200 homes in the state, the head of the military's Northern Command said he would push to get the C-130 aircraft into the sky.

And Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger warned President Bush in April that it "would be reckless" to face another fire season without the planes, which are among the state's most powerful aerial firefighting weapons.

Of eight C-130s based at the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station on the Pacific Coast northwest of Los Angeles, none is equipped yet to fight fires.

The firefighting gear "is still under testing and validation," said Lt. Col. Jon R. Siepmann, a Guard spokesman.

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