Late last week, the U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014 (H.R. 3304), which included language that Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) submitted transferring 22 military aircraft to the Forest Service to battle major wildfires.

Under the defense bill passed Thursday night, seven surplus HC-130H Hercules aircraft will be sent to the Forest Service as large air tankers and 15 C-23B Sherpa aircraft will serve as smokejumper and cargo transports. The transfer of the HC-130H aircraft nearly doubles the number of large air tankers, which the Forest Service operates today.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report released in August warned that the number of Forest Service large air tankers dropped from 44 aircraft in 2003 to eight aircraft in 2013.

“I am pleased the amendment I cosponsored with Sen. McCain to transfer seven HC-130H planes from the Coast Guard to the Forest Service was included in the defense authorization bill that passed the Senate [Thursday] night,” Sen. Feinstein said. “These seven planes combined can carry over 21,000 gallons of water or fire retardant to help combat dangerous forest fires. Given California’s worsening risk of forest fires — as evidenced by the ongoing Pfeiffer Fire near Big Sur — this transfer is a critical step to help address our ability to defend forests and communities from the threat of wildfires.”

J.P. Crumrine can be reached at [email protected]