‘Super Scoopers,’ ‘Helitanker’ Come to Town

Photos by Isiah REYES
Photos by Isiah REYES

By Isiah REYES

The Los Angeles County Fire Dept. showed off the recent arrival of two Canadian CL-415 “Super Scoopers” and the Erickson Air-Crane “Helitanker” that will be used to complement the existing fleet of air resources this upcoming fire season.

The annual event was held at Van Nuys Airport on Sept. 3. It is a collaborative effort among the Province of Quebec, Erickson Air-Crane company and L.A. County Fire Dept.

“While the rest of the northern hemisphere is exiting their fire season, we are just entering ours,” said Los Angeles County Third District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (shown at right). “These aircraft are going to save lives and property for all of us.”

The Super Scooper aircraft measures 45 feet high, 60 feet long and 94 feet wide. It weighs approximately 44,000 pounds and has the capacity to drop 1,600 gallons of water at a time in a single load. The aircraft can be filled in just 12 seconds and deployed in 5 minutes.

“When a fire breaks out as they often have, this aircraft is able to get to the fire as quickly as any aircraft with this kind of capacity of water to drop,” Yaroslavsky said. “We have stopped fires as a result of this aircraft that would have been major wildfires.”

The second aircraft on display was the Erickson Air-Crane Helitanker that was leased by the Los Angeles County Fire Dept. for 120 days. It is 24 feet high, 88 feet long and has a rotor width of about 72 feet. It weighs 24,000 pounds with a capacity to drop 2,650 gallons of water either in a single drop or multiple drops. It can be filled in 60 seconds and can hover over many different water sources. It can be deployed in 10 minutes to any fire.

Los Angeles County Fire Dept. Chief Daryl Osby said he was extremely concerned about the ongoing drought that is now in its third year. The Los Angeles County Fire Dept. has been monitoring weather conditions during the drought and, as a result,will keep the contract aircraft longer this year until April 2015. Leasing contract aircraft for that long was unprecedented in the County of Los Angeles.

Chief of the City of Los Angeles Fire Dept. Ralph Terrazas said that Southern California no longer has a traditional brush fire season but it is now year round.
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“It is not a question of if we will have a major brushfire, it is a question of when,” said Terrazas. “We are well prepared to fight brushfires, save lives and protect property.”

Alain Houde, Quebec government representative in Los Angeles, said that more than 140 men and women from Quebec since 1993 have served to ensure that the two Super Scoopers leased from Quebec are air worthy. The effort is an ongoing 20-year collaboration between the two regions.

“We don’t have much of a foreign policy in Los Angeles County, but our relationship with Quebec is a model for the world, especially these days, in cooperation,” Yaroslavsky said.

The County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors approves $5.6 million a year to lease the aircraft. Osby said that if the Los Angeles County Fire Dept. wanted to buy one Super Scooper or Helitanker that it would cost about $30 million. He added that does not take into consideration the crew and staff and maintenance associated that would also drive up costs.

“From our perspective, the most cost-effective way to augment our aircraft from both the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles is to lease the aircraft when needed,” Osby said.

The media event ended with aerial demonstrations by the aircraft to show how they would respond to a real fire.

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