LAFD unveils new $17.5-million helicopter as fire danger continues to beset Southland

VAN NUYS, Calif. (KABC) -- The Los Angeles Fire Department on Wednesday unveiled its new $17.5-million helicopter and welcomed the arrival of a leased helitanker as extreme fire danger continues to beset the region.

"LAFD helicopters are capable of dropping 450 gallons of water per drop," fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said as the Agusta Westland AW139 helicopter and Erickson Aircrane helitanker were introduced at Van Nuys Airport. "They are available for response 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

The addition of the two aircraft brings the fleet's size to six and comes just in time for the most critical months for fire danger, conditions that may last into November.

"Our flight time around the city is relatively short," said Chief Pilot Scott Davison of LAFD's Air Operations division. "AW139s, on average, do about 160 miles an hour."

Describing one of the department's firefighting strategies, Terrazas said: "We like to pinch it and stop the head. And if we do it right we can stay in control of these fires."

The agency has leased the Erickson Aircrane for 150 days. The heavy chopper, which can release 2,600 gallons of water per drop, will be used to "hit brush fires hard and hit it fast," Terrazas said, "because when it's small we can control it."

"When it gets a head of steam - especially with red flag conditions - then we're at a big disadvantage," the chief added.

The fire department says it is prepared but residents need to be as well.

"Give us defensible space," Terrazas said. "If we think we can save your house, one of the factors in making that determination is: How much space do we have to work with?"
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