New Aerial Firefighting Aircraft come to California, but more safe, helicopters are needed

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New Firehawks added to California Firefighting Fleet

Study shows that this threat is likely to grow

Same source points to Helicopters as more Effective Vehicle

For whatever reasons, the risk of wildfires is increasing and therefore, aerial firefighting assets will be needed to attack these destructive forces. The below article explains in detail the Sikorsky Si-70 helicopters being delivered to three organizations in California.

The National Interagency Fire Center tracks the trends of these conflagrations and the best tactics to attack them. Here are two maps showing the past record and forecasting the future:

Here is Center’s prediction for the 2019-2020 winter.


An analysis of 2017 fire season shows the demands of that year’s fires and the strains which those emergencies placed on the infrastructure.

The US Forest Service initiated a study the Aerial Firefighting Use and Effectiveness (AFUE) Study. It collected thorough data about these events, cataloged the tactics and analyzed the effectiveness of four aerial tactics (rotorcraft v. fixed wing; direct v. indirect techniques) and presented this table of the data:



The report found that direct application of the fire suppressant by helicopter was the most effective.















Here are some other articles on the subject of aerial firefighting:

A Repeat Request For A New Firefighting Aircraft
The Complex, Dynamic & Dangerous Aerial/Ground Firefighting Environment [NIOSH] May Benefit From SMS
Aerial Firefighting In US Forests May Be Use Chinese Aircraft In 2015
Spirit Of John Muir Global SuperTanker B747 Fighting Fires Over Bolivia’s Amazon Rainforest

 Three New Firehawk Helicopters Delivered To California

by Mark Huber

– December 9, 2019, 11:45 PM

Air Methods’ United Rotorcraft unit and Sikorsky delivered three new S-70i Firehawk helicopters to separate California fire agencies—the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD), and the City of San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, the companies announced this week. Sikorsky manufactured the helicopters and United Rotorcraft outfitted them.

The new Firehawks “can attack fires at night, in strong Santa Ana winds, maneuver with agility and safety in canyons and terrain from sea level up to 10,000 feet altitude, while dropping water with tremendous precision and force, said Jason Lambert, vice president of Sikorsky global military and mission systems.

The aircraft can transport up to 12 firefighters, perform rescue operations, and fly fire suppression. They are equipped with a 600-pound external rescue hoist, a 9,000-pound cargo hook with load cell system, forward recognition lights, and a high-intensity searchlight. Avionics installations include tactical communications and navigation systems.

The Firehawks’ fire-suppression system consists of a newly designed 1,000-gallon water tank attached to the belly; extended landing gear to accommodate the tank; and a retractable snorkel than can refill the tank in less than one minute. United Rotorcraft contracted with Kawak Aviation Technologies of Bend, Oregon, to design and manufacture the water tank to new specifications based on input from LACoFD.

Cal Fire’s Firehawk is the first of nine aircraft on order, with an option for three more. LACoFD has operated three older S-70A model Firehawks since 2001. The county’s new S-70i Firehawk is the first of two ordered and is more powerful and faster than the older S-70A model. “With the increase in wildfire danger, the Firehawk has never been more relevant to the state of California,” said Mike Slattery, president of United Rotorcraft. “This capability brings unmatched multi-mission capability to these firefighting agencies to protect lives and property.”

This is not to say that only rotorcraft should be used; fixed wings are also very effective in stopping these conflagrations.















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