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County Bolstering Aerial Fire Resources | News

The county supervisory board voted unanimously Tuesday to strengthen aerial fire protection in the area, approving the purchase of a new twin-engine firefighting helicopter and adding two additional firefighting helicopters to a firefighting agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric.

The Bell 412 EPX helicopter will be the Sheriff’s first twin-engine fleet. A twin-engine helicopter is safer, can fly at night, lift more weight, carry more water and reach more locations to get water.

“The reality is that we need a twin-engine firefighting helicopter in our county fire department. “It has long been a desirable goal to ensure that as a region we are better prepared to fight forest fires,” said Nathan Fletcher, chairman of the board. “We know that over time we will need more than one, but moving forward with one now is the right step, as we face the realities of a much more catastrophic fire risk than we have seen in the past and upgrade its air support arsenal. our fleet. ”

San Diego Sheriff’s Department Fire and Search and Rescue Helicopter fleet now consists of three Bell 205 helicopters built in the 1960s and 1970s. During fires, the CAL FIRE / San Diego Fire Department staffs the helicopters, in addition to the pilot, for water drops. Eventually, all Sheriff helicopters will be replaced by twin-engine models.

“It’s the next generation for ASTREA (Air Support to Regional Enforcement Services),” said Sheriff ASTREA Sgt. Gavin Lanning.

Once a purchase is made, it usually takes 18 months to deliver.

The council also voted to amend an agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric to provide two additional firefighting helicopters, raising the number of utility helicopters available to boost the initial fire response to five. The agreement states that SDG & E pays for the first two hours of a new fire and the county pays for another two hours. In case more hours are needed, the jurisdiction may choose to pay extra hours. Both SDG & E and the county have an annual contribution limit of $ 150,000.

The SDG & E fleet includes two Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks, a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane and an Airbus H145, while another Black Hawk will be added in 2023. All will be based in San Diego County and will be available for local fires. .

The county first entered into an agreement with SDG & E in 2009 and has since renewed and extended the terms. In five years, SDG & E helicopters responded to 144 fires with 333 flight hours.

County Bolstering Aerial Fire Resources | News Source link County Bolstering Aerial Fire Resources | News

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