Burbank congressman wants night firefighting aircraft ban dropped

A Southland congressman wants the U.S. Forest Service to fight fires from the air after dark.

When brushfires break out in Southern California, a squadron of firefighting aircraft takes off to drop water and chemicals on the flames.

When the sun goes down, L.A. County Fire Department helicopters keep flying – but U.S. Forest Service planes stay on the ground.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank wants those planes to stay in the fight. He’s asked the House committee that oversees the Forest Service’s budget to require a review of the ban on night and early morning flights.

L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a longtime critic of the Forest Service ban, says night flights would have made a big difference fighting last year’s Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest.
"We found that the failure of the U.S. Forestry Service to utilize night flying helped that fire to continue to burn and not be put out," he said. "And as a result, we lost two firemen’s lives, 160,000 burned acres, and over a hundred homes and structures have been destroyed."

The Forest Service ban on night flying went into effect after a fatal firefighting helicopter crash in 1977. But some firefighting agencies say better night-vision equipment and satellite-aided navigation make night flying much safer.

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