San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the purchase of a new Bell 412 EPX twin-engine helicopter to aid in wildland firefighting in the area.
The vote will allow the county’s Department of Purchasing and Contracting to begin negotiations to acquire the aircraft, which is estimated to cost around US$16 million.
The Bell 412 EPX is powered by twin 1,120shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-9 engines, and has a maximum take-off weight of 5,530kg internally, and almost 5,900kg with an external load. The aircraft is also equipped with Bell’s BasiX Pro avionics suite.
The aircraft will offer night flying capabilities and higher water capacities
Board Chairman Nathan Fletcher, who made the proposal, said that the purchase was a ‘long-desired goal’, adding that the county’s current fleet of single-engine helicopters dating from between the 1960s and 1970s have much lower carry capacities for water and cannot fly at night.
Fletcher also thanked the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for its assistance with funding.
At the same meeting, the board also approved a contract with Perimeter Solutions for the provision of fire retardant, as well as a new wildfire-related roadside vegetation management and evacuation preparedness program.
Around 79 per cent of the county’s unincorporated area is designated as a high or very high fire hazard severity zone.
The California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing completed the installation of four new fire-retardant ground storage tanks earlier this month at its Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, in support of aerial firefighting efforts in the state.