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Gallegly Reintroduces Bill to Allow Federal Firefighting Aid

March 11, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

Rep. Elton Gallegly has introduced legislation that would allow federal authorities to use Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve firefighting equipment to fight wildfires.

The bill would allow the secretary of Agriculture and the secretary of the Interior to call federal firefighting equipment to a wildfire regardless of whether commercial operators are fully deployed.

Under current federal law, government equipment cannot be used in most cases until all available commercial equipment is exhausted.

Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), who first introduced the bill in 1993, reintroduced the legislation last summer, but Congress adjourned before the House could act on it.

"When a wildfire is blazing, minutes sometimes make the difference between quick containment and catastrophe," he said. "We must give fire officials the flexibility to respond quickly with the most modern firefighting equipment to protect homes, firefighters and our natural resources."

Gallegly has led efforts in Congress to replace the aging aircraft and the firefighting equipment used by the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Four new C-130Js have been ordered for the Channel Islands guard unit.

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