BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -
Federal budget cuts are threatening yet another valuable California resource. The help of the California National Guard may be in jeopardy this fire season.
The California National Guard’s ability to supply planes and helicopters to fight wildfires in a season already above normal may be cut by 20 percent in order to meet the mandatory sequestration.
The pentagon has told the largest National Guard force in the U.S. to prepare for a furlough of its technicians, most of who work on aircraft, to meet mandatory spending cuts.
"It reduces our forces 2000 federal technicians who maintain aircraft around the state; it reduces them by 20 percent as far as work hours and their ability to maintain the aircraft," Lt. Bender with the California National Guard said.
The guard is called on when Cal Fire’s own fleet, helicopters and tankers aren’t enough to stop the spread of the blaze, such as the Ventura county fire which makes this furlough a concern
“When we have fewer capabilities and fewer assets to pull from, then fires get larger which means potentially more people will be affected,” Andy McMurray with Cal Fire said.
The furloughs will mean fewer hours to maintain 10 black hawk helicopters that carry 660 gallons of water and two c-130 cargo planes equipped to drop 3 thousand gallons of water or fire retardant all in a single pass all of which can be a necessity in a time of dyer need.
"At this time of the year wildfire season is of the utmost priority, our relationship with Cal Fire and our long standing ties and well exercised relationship pays great dividends when the citizens of California’s lives and properties are at risk of wildfires,” Lt. Bender added.