The helicopter will be used for dropping water and flame-retardant on fires. The Forest Service plans to use the helicopter in the future to also include emergency medical transport and aerial management of controlled burns and wildfires in progress.
The new contracting helicopter will be used exclusively by the Forest Service for firefighting operations. The Forest Service currently uses other helicopters on an as-needed basis under established agreements with several Southern California organizations, according to the agency.
The helicopter will be based in Southern California in support of fire suppression in the Angeles, Cleveland and San Bernardino National Forests, as well as the southern half of the Los Padres National Forest.
The decision follows extensive analyses that indicate helicopter night operations can keep down the costs and risks of wildfires by helping keep fires small, according to the agency.
On average, the USDA Forest Service and the Department of the Interior bureaus respond to about 16,500 wildfires per year that occur on land under their jurisdiction and assist state and local agencies in responding to a significant number of the approximately 60,000 wildfires per year that occur on land under their jurisdiction.