Firefighting agencies, including the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) and Ventura County Fire Department in partnership with SCE, are expanding their capabilities to combat California’s wildfire threat.
As outlined in its 2021 Wildfire Mitigation Plan Update, SCE is contributing nearly US$18 million to lease three helicopters. This includes two Coulson-Unical CH-47 helitankers and a Sikorsky-61 helitanker. All three aircraft have unique water and fire-retardant-dropping capabilities and can fly day and night. In addition, a Sikorsky-76 command and control helicopter, along with ground-based equipment to support rapid retardant refills and drops, will be available to assist with wildfires.
Pending approvals from the appropriate boards of supervisors, the three firefighting agencies will take the lead in the daily operation, dispatch and management of the aircraft across SCE’s 50,000-square-mile service area.
Reducing the risk of wildfires
“Following the historic 2020 fire season, it is an honor to work with our frontline fire agency partners to help save and protect lives,” said Kevin Payne, SCE President and CEO. “SCE remains committed to reducing the risk of wildfires and supporting the readiness and response efforts of our fire agencies.”
SCE and the OCFA united in 2019 and again last year in a similar partnership, which made a significant difference as the firefighting agency fought several large wildfires throughout the region. Last December alone, a very large Coulson helitanker, funded by SCE, made 101 water drops totaling 223,438 gallons of water.
“After a dry winter, Southern California once again faces a serious wildfire risk,” said Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen. “This regional partnership is adding helicopters and ground-based support equipment that will enhance our ability to respond to any fires that occur across a six-county area.”
The partnership is one element of SCE’s comprehensive approach to addressing the wildfire threat. Its wildfire mitigation efforts also include installation of insulated power lines and weather stations, as well as a broad-based vegetation management program. From 15 June until the end of the year, the helitankers and command and control helicopter will be strategically stationed across SCE’s service area and made available to various jurisdictions through existing partnerships and coordination agreements between the agencies.