Los Al Council recognizes OCFA and its wildfire pilot program

Courtesy photo This 1,000 gallon helitanker is part of a $4 grant from Southern California Edison that will be a pilot program seeking more effective ways to fight wildfires.

OCFA Division Fire Chief says families should have emergency plan

The city of Los Alamitos made a presentation to Orange County Fire Authority Division Chief Ron Roberts this week in observance of Wildfire Prevention month.

City council member Shelley Hasselbrink, the city’s representative on the OCFA, said residents should not be fooled by all of the green foliage across wildfire landscapes, saying most of the brush underneath is dead and poses a serious fire threat.

“This year is expected to be worse than last,” she said, adding that experts say there is no longer a “fire season” in California. Nowadays, said Hasselbrink, “it is a year-round threat.”

She and other members of the Council presented a proclamation to Roberts, who said he very much appreciated “the partnership with the city and our community.”

Nevertheless, he said recent “shaking” of earthquakes should serve as a reminder to residents to have an emergency plan in place, stocking food and other supplies in the event of any natural disaster.

Hasselbrink also during the meeting made note of a $4 million grant from Southern California Edison to “implement an innovative aerial fire-fighting pilot program managed by the OCFA and operated by Coulson Aviation (USA), Inc.

The “Next Generation Aerial Operations Based Pilot Program” is a 150-day night aerial firefighting program that is structured similarly to the highly successful program in Victoria, Australia, according to an OCFA press release.

The firefighting unit is comprised of a Type 1 helitanker (1,000+ gallons) capable of hover-filling at night from the nearest available water source or portable tank, and a Type 2 intelligence-gathering helicopter. The Type 1 helitanker providing night fire suppression, working in coordination with an intelligence gathering helicopter for risk/benefit decision-making will be the first of its kind in the U.S.

“This project will demonstrate a firefighting capability that is not currently available in the U.S. and provide additional resources to fire agencies across Southern California,” said Chris Thompson, SCE’s Vice President of Local Public Affairs, when the project was initially announced.

“This is an example of the most recent of SCE’s many significant investments to reduce catastrophic wildfire risk using innovative technology,” he said.

According to OCFA Fire Chief Brian Fennessy, “this could be a game changer thanks to Southern California Edison. Fighting wildfires at night is optimal when weather conditions are more favorable – temperatures are down, humidity up and winds typically lighter.”

The pilot program will use features of this unit’s two helicopters to more effectively fight wildifires, Hasselbrink noted.

One of them, the helitanker, 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 will work as the reconnaissance aircraft and will help track the location of water drops more precisely and measure their effectiveness, according to the OCFA.

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.

The pilot program will be based at the Fullerton Airport.



Los Al Council recognizes OCFA and its wildfire pilot program