SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Sheriff-Air Support Unit announced the arrival of Copter 964, a 2004 Sikorsky HH-60L "Firehawk" helicopter.
The former Blackhawk helicopter was purchased in 2019 and underwent a retrofit with new state-of-the-art avionics, paint and a new rescue hoist in Alabama to transform it into a Firehawk.
The Firehawk will join the fleet of Bell Huey aircraft stationed out of the Santa Ynez Airport.
Copter 964 will increase the Air Support Unit's lift capacity which ensures that more water can be delivered faster and more accurately during fire response.
The sheriffs office said the Firehawk can deliver about 1,000 gallons of water in one drop, compared to the 300 gallons a Huey can deliver.
The Firehawk can also carry 12 passengers, including two critically injured patients while the Huey can carry five passengers and only one critically injured patient.
The Firehawk's top speed is 218 miles per hour compared to 138 miles per hour for the Huey. This difference will allow for quicker response times during emergencies and faster water refills during a fire.
The sheriff's office said Direct Relief International raised a total of $1,151,000 in donations used to offset the cost of the copter's retrofit.
The Firehawk is expected to be ready to respond to fire-related missions in Fall of 2021 after pilots, mechanics and Air Support staff have been trained and the copter's 1,000-gallon tank has been added.
A formal introduction of the helicopter will take place at a later date.