Orange County Fire Authority, in partnership with Southern California Edison and Coulson Aviation, launched a new nighttime aerial firefighting program.
The “Next Generation Aerial Operations Based Pilot Program” is comprised of two helicopters. The first one (S-61) has the capacity of carrying 1,000 gallons and can fill its tank at night while hovering over a water source instead of landing to load. The second helicopter is a Sikorsky S-76 that will work as the reconnaissance aircraft and provide intelligence and measure the effectiveness of the night drops
The duo will be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will be available to all regions serviced by Southern California Edison including Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
This new 150-day pilot program could become a game-changer in the fight against wildfires as firefighters can take advantage of weather conditions at night (lower temperatures, higher humidity and lighter winds), resulting in lower intensity and rates of spread.