Cal Fire to receive modern helicopter

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With an old chopper on its way out and a new one on its way in, Cal Fire gave an exclusive look at helicopters at the Redwood Acres Fairgrounds. Cal Fire Humboldt-Del Norte has been using the same helicopter to fight fires for 30 years.

Battalion Chief for Cal Fire Humboldt-Del Norte, Jhon Bonham, stood in front of the helicopter currently in commission.

“This is the UH1H Super Huey, and we’ve modified it to fit our needs at Cal Fire,” Bonham said. “This particular aircraft was built in 1972, and as it sits, it can carry nine in the back and two up front.”

The aircraft is used for rescue missions but its main purpose is fighting fires. Cal Fire Pilot Colin Burton explained the importance of having air assistance on a fire.

“We’re just one piece of a puzzle, but our piece is a lot of fun. We get to fly in, see the whole fire, put water on it, talk directly with ground crew,” Burton said. “I do like that interaction of working directly with our crew because I work in support of them. What do they need? How can I help? And it feels really good when you can nail a target that has been specified for you.”

Now, Cal Fire is transitioning to new technology. Bonham stood in front of Sacramento’s modern helicopter.

“Behind me is the s70i Cal Fire Hawk. Capabilities of the aircraft are dramatically different than the Huey with the ability to carry 1,000 gallons,” Bonham said. “You’re going to get water on the fire, more water on the fire sooner. And you know you’re going to get a lot more of it than you would with the huey. The Huey has been a great platform for us, but it carries 324 gallons whereas this is 1,000, This aircraft cruises at a speed quite a bit faster than the Huey. Ultimately they’re both very capable. This aircraft just has a lot more power, a lot more capability to carry troops and a lot more water carrying capacity.”

The Hawk will join the Cal Fire Humboldt-Del Norte unit next year.