World's largest fire suppression helicopters on standby to fight future SoCal wildfires

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022
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While local fire crews like the Orange County Fire Authority are well-equipped and resourced to handle these fires, they'll also have the air support of the world's largest fire-suppression helicopters.

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (KABC) -- The threat of wildfires happens all year long in Southern California as drought conditions worsen.

While local fire crews like the Orange County Fire Authority are well-equipped and resourced to handle these fires, they'll also have the air support of the world's largest fire-suppression helicopters.

"What really sets these apart is the amount of water and retardant that they drop," said OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy.

Fennessy said they're once again working with the Los Angeles and Ventura county fire departments to deploy the Quick Reaction Force.

The fleet is made up of two CH-47 helitankers, which can strategically drop 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant on flames, and two other helicopters.

"All an agency has to do is ask for the QRF package and they get all four of these helicopters at once so the entire force shows up. The entire force works on that part of the fire," Fennessy said.

The $18 million program is funded by Southern California Edison.

"Now with about a quarter of SCE's service territory located in high fire areas, it's one of our top priorities to protect the public especially from potential ignitions from our equipment," said President and CEO of SCE Steve Powell.

Fennessy said the QRF's most critical feature is that it can continue to make aerial drops once the sun goes down, making it the world's first fully nocturnal wildfire aerial task force.

"Once it becomes dark, the airplanes go away," he said. "They go back to the airport. They're not going to come back until the morning. We now have the ability to continue delivering retardant and a lot of retardant because we set this mobile retardant base in close proximity to the edge of the fire."

Fire officials said 90% of wildfires are human-caused so they also want to partner with the community to stop these fires from starting in the first place.