OCFA, Anaheim FD test new technology to fight fires in remote areas

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The Orange County Fire Authority and Anaheim Fire are teaming up to test a new technology that could give firefighters an advantage when attacking flames from the air. (KABC)

The Orange County Fire Authority and Anaheim Fire are teaming up to test a new technology that could give firefighters an advantage when attacking flames from the air.

They are looking to add to their options when it comes to where their water-dropping helicopters fill up. "This is a way to make those helicopters even more effective to save homes, save lives, save firefighters," said Mark Whaling, from Whaling Fire Line Equipment.

Whaling, a career firefighter, created the "Remotely Activated Snorkel Site" or RASS. With a radio signal, a helicopter pilot can turn it on, filling up the tank, ready for the pilot to drop in his snorkel and take in water for the next drop.

The proposal from OCFA and Anaheim Fire is to place the RASS tanks in remote areas where helicopters would normally have to travel lengthy distances. "He's able to activate it, fill up the tank, deactivate it and drain it, all from the pilot's seat," said Whaling. "Nobody has to be on the ground."

It means more drops per hour, less travel time and more firefighters on the ground during a fire, ready to fight the flames. "Add efficiency and safety to the entire operation, which really equates to a safer community, and keeping large fire growth from happening," said Anaheim Fire Battalion Chief Tim Adams.

Orange County could be one of the first in the country to utilize the new technology. Firefighters say it'll bolster one of their greatest tools in keeping communities safe.

"This type of technology could be a game-changer, for the helicopters to turn faster and get the water to the fire sooner faster and more often, but also freeing up fire engines," said OCFA Battalion Chief Craig Covey.

With proper funding and approval, the RASS tanks could be installed in Orange County within 18 to 24 months.
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