FEMA turns to Volga-Dnepr charter for California fire assistance

Caryn Livingston

Volga-Dnepr AN-124

As part of a response to wildfires that continue to rage in California, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has chartered an AN-124 aircraft operated by Russia-based Volga-Dnepr Airlines to transport two fire engines and a Ford F-250 pickup truck from New Jersey to California, according to a carrier filing requesting an emergency exemption from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Volga-Dnepr Airlines specializes in transporting heavy and outsized cargo with its AN-124s, each capable of carrying approximately 120 tonnes.

A letter of support submitted by the agency to the DOT states that FEMA plans to move four firefighting response vehicles to California, and that a Sept. 12 flight from Atlantic City (ACY) to Travis Air Force Base (SUU) is “currently our only option to meet an immediate timeline.”

The fourth vehicle referred to in the FEMA letter could not be confirmed, but according to Volga-Dnepr’s filing, the transport will include two Type 4 engines weighing about 22,500 pounds each, designed for driving over rough terrain, and a Ford F-250 pickup truck weighing 6,500 pounds.

FEMA could not provide additional comment on the shipment as of press time.

According to the most recent update from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, more than 14,800 firefighters are fighting 28 major wildfires in California as of Sept. 11. More than 3.1 million acres have burned in the state since the beginning of 2020, with 19 reported fatalities and nearly 4,000 structures destroyed.

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