VENTURA, Calif. -- Ventura County debuted a new aircraft to help fight wildfires just in time for summer.
Two new Firehawks helicopters were added to the fleet.
“As we all know fire season is year round in Ventura County and we need to be ready all of the time,” said Mark Lorenzen, who is the Ventura County Fire Chief.
Ventura County First Responders feel they're now ready for fire season with the addition of two new Firehawk helicopters. They showed off the new aircraft Wednesday.
Together with @VCFD, we're excited to announce the arrival of the two new Firehawk helicopters. These new helicopters are equipped with a 1,000-gallon belly tank to drop water on fires, a rescue hoist, and night vision technology.#VCSheriff #helicopters #teamwork @VCAirUnit pic.twitter.com/AGMg7tlRoT— Ventura County Sheriff (@VENTURASHERIFF) May 20, 2021
“We are now tripling the water capabilities with the addition of these two new Firehawk helicopters and we can also transport our fire crews at the same time,” said Lorenzen. “They are faster, safer, more efficient, and we are incredibly excited to add this asset to our joint aviation program here.”
Officials say the aircraft are replacing outdated Huey helicopters.
“None the less they were very old and did a great job for us,” said Bill Ayub, who is the Ventura County Sheriff. “But we are increasingly coming up to schedule maintenance and the parts are not as readily available as they once were and so we recognized the need to move forward. These two aircraft behind me are military surplus, but they have been reconditioned and uplifted for civilian use.”
“We have a metric and that is to keep all of our fires to 10 archers or less 95% of the time,” said Lorenzen.
The new Firehawks can drop three-times more water than the old helicopters, and pilots here say they are better equipped to avoid hills and other potential hazards.
“Another great thing about these aircraft is that they will be able to fight fire day and night time,” said Rolla Boggs, who is one of five pilots here at Ventura County Aviation Unit. “It is a 24 hour, 7 day a week platform that we are going to use to be ale to combat fires within the county as well as our surrounding areas.”