A fleet of new helicopters about to join Cal Fire’s fight is already being described as a “game changer” and unlike any other chopper.
The Cal Fire Hawks are at Cal Fire’s aviation headquarters getting prepped for battle.
“It’s a huge game changer for us we feel,” said Cal Fire Aviation Chief Dennis Brown. “These are brand new, the first new aircraft we’ve ever had.”
The chopper is capable of flying 175 miles an hour and its twin engines mean it’s safe enough to fight fire at night.
“Over time we’ll have the capacity of operating those under night vision goggles at night over fires,” Brown said.
The chopper can also drop more than three times the amount of water than the old fleet.
The Cal Fire Hawk features a retractable snorkel capable of sucking up one thousand gallons of water in just 45 seconds.
“Hopefully with the speed involved they will be getting more water to the fire quicker to support the crews,” said Brown.
The current fleet of vintage Hueys is more than 5 decades old.
“They were originally used in Vietnam,” Brown said.
With the state’s growing wildfire danger, Cal Fire said an upgrade is badly needed, but it’s not just the chopper fleet getting a boost, seven C-130s are also in the pipeline.
The fixed wing planes will be able to drop four times more retardant and utilize a bigger crew.
Firefighters hope the new aircraft will help them knock more fires down quickly and save lives
“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to them a bigger punch,” Brown said.