Deal grants funding for additional fire prevention aircraft, upgrades

March 16, 2017

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced an additional $3.178 million to the State Forestry Commission (SFC) for new fire prevention aircraft and technology upgrades. The funding was appropriated in the amended FY17 budget.

“The State Forestry Commission's Air Operations Unit is responsible for scanning our entire state to detect wildfires and identify other possible threats,” said Deal. “As we continue to deal with drought conditions, it’s critical we provide air operations with the necessary tools to do their jobs and do them well. This funding will help replenish our aging fleet and upgrade existing radio and communications systems currently in use. I’m grateful for the hard work of our aviation unit and am confident this new equipment will dramatically improve their ability to protect Georgia citizens, wildlife and agribusiness.”

With the additional $3.178 million in funding, SFC will be able to purchase 5 aircraft, 17 Garmin GPS systems and 18 narrowband radios.

SFC Aviation Operations Unit background

  • Currently, SFC has 4 aircraft in operation that are more than 30 years old. Funding will allow SFC to replace the aging aircraft and provide more dependable and modernized detection services with four Cessna 182-T aircraft.
  • It will also allow for the purchase of one Thrush 510G aircraft, which would provide aerial relief to wildfires in Georgia. The aircraft is a Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) model plane, which can hold fire retardant liquids to aid in swift response to wildfires. 
  • Currently, the SFC does not operate any SEAT planes and must call upon the US Forest Service (USFS) to borrow planes and helicopter service during wildfires. The USFS is in charge of an entire region of states, and at times, aerial response is not available due to other fire activity. In addition, fire retardant drops by the USFS can cost thousands per drop, which has proven to be extremely costly. 
  • Finally, GPS and radio equipment will modernize the SFC fleet via increased technological and communications abilities, and will allow all SFC air operations units to operate under new FCC regulations, which must be in effect by 2020.