With funding from Southern California Edison (SCE), firefighting agencies, including the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), and Ventura County Fire Department, are expanding their capabilities to combat California’s wildfire threat with new helicopters.
As outlined in its 2021 Wildfire Mitigation Plan Update, SCE is contributing nearly $18 million to lease three helicopters. This includes two Coulson-Unical CH-47 helitankers and a Sikorsky-61 helitanker. All three aircraft have water and fire-retardant-dropping capabilities and can fly day and night. In addition, a Sikorsky-76 command and control helicopter along with ground-based equipment to support rapid retardant refills and drops will be available to assist with wildfires.
Pending approvals from the appropriate boards of supervisors, the three firefighting agencies will take the lead in the daily operation, dispatch, and management of the aircraft across SCE’s 50,000-square-mile service area.
SCE and the OCFA united in 2019 and again last year in a similar partnership, which made a significant difference as the firefighting agency fought several large wildfires throughout the region. Last December alone, a very large Coulson helitanker, funded by SCE, made 101 water drops totaling 223,438 gallons of water.
From June 15 until the end of the year, the helitankers and command and control helicopter will be strategically stationed across SCE’s service area and made available to various jurisdictions through existing partnerships and coordination agreements between the agencies.