San Diego to get third firefighting helicopter

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego County Supervisors Tuesday authorized the acquisition of a third firefighting helicopter, one of a series of recommendations stemming from the rash of wildfires in May.

The county will spend up to $5.2 million for the Bell helicopter.

Supervisor Bill Horn said the third chopper will give the county a cushion in case one of the other two has to undergo maintenance.

“Fire is a reoccurring event for us in Southern California, and I just think we need to do all we can to try to keep them at a minimum,” Horn said.

The public is not aware of the hundreds of brush fires extinguished each year because firefighters are able to attack the flames from the air and keep them from spreading beyond a couple of acres, Horn said.

Following the 14 wildfires in May, which together scorched 25,000 acres and caused nearly $30 million in property damage, the supervisors held a workshop attended by representatives of fire agencies, elected officials, tribal leaders and the military to find a way to improve coordination.

According to Supervisor Dianne Jacob, 60 people representing 40 agencies took part in the meeting.

Among the other recommendations approved today, county fire authorities will use funds to preposition ground-based firefighters during high-risk weather conditions; negotiate with the city of San Diego to contract for use of its helicopters, which have night-flying capabilities; and standardize public communications, including issuing joint press releases.

Fire agencies are also working to improve their communications to the area’s non-English speaking residents.

Categories: KUSI