This new tool will help firefighting helicopters in LA and Orange counties fill their tanks faster

David González Image
Monday, December 18, 2023
New tool will help firefighting helicopters fill their tanks faster
A new HeloPod in Orange County and heli-hydrant in L.A. County will help firefighting helicopters refill water tanks faster, saving valuable time.

Orange County Fire Authority has a new tool in their arsenal to fight wildfires. The agency unveiled one of two HeloPods on Friday that will enhance their wildfire fighting capabilities.

"Water is the key to putting out these fires," said Chief Brian Fennessy.

The chief said getting water in remote parts of the county during wildfires can be hard and takes up valuable time.

"But in the past, fires out here in this part of the county, our helicopters, once they show up on scene and they've made that first drop of water, they've now got to go fly and find some standing water," Fennessy said.

One of the pods is on the Quest Diagnostics campus off Ortega Highway in San Juan Capristano.

Choppers will be able to lower their hoses into the HeloPod and fill up. The tanks are connected to a hydrant and will refill automatically.

In L.A. County, a similar 8,000 gallon heli-hydrant will serve as a dip source for firetfighting helicopters.

"It's radio controlled by the pilot of the helicopter, the pilot can actually tell this tank when to fill up and tell this tank when they will be lowering their hose to also fill up the tank," said Supervisor Janice Hahn said.

Fire crews said these innovative water sources will speed up their airdrops in an emergency, where every second counts.

"I'm told that prior to this HeloPod being put in place, the nearest standing water was out near Dove Canyon, which is about a 12-minute turnaround time. A lot of fire can burn in 12 minutes," Fennessy said.

The HeloPod will be lit up and can be used at night.

Fennessy said this new tool will help them fulfill their mission of keeping all wildfires at 10 acres or less.

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The Quick Reaction Force is a 24-hours a day fire suppression helitanker fleet across L.A., Orange and Ventura counties.