The CAL (CA) FIRE Hawk, one of a dozen firefighting helicopters purchased by the state for $288 million, made its debut this week at the Boggs Mountain helitack base in Lake County, reports pressdemocrat.com.
Copter 104, which can travel up to 160 mph and carry 1,000 gallons of water, can fly to Santa Rosa in 10-12 minutes and drop a 300-yard trail of water from 100 feet above ground or tree level upon arrival, the report says. It can ferry seven firefighters and can conduct rescues with a hoist and a 250-foot cable. The apparatus also has twin 2,000-horsepower turbine engines.
In addition, the $24 million chopper is capable of firefighting in the dark; CAL FIRE is moving into a program with the apparatus flown by pilots with night vision goggles. Five bases have been approved for the program—the report notes that it marks CAL FIRE’s first entry into nighttime firefighting since the agency’s aviation branch started with converted crop dusters serving as air tankers in the 1950s.
CAL FIRE now has 58 aircrafts, 23 air tankers, and other fixed-wing aircraft.
Boggs Mountain is not currently in line for the night-flying program, and the designated base closest to Sonoma County is the Alma Helitack Fire Station at Los Gatos in Santa Clara County. The other four bases in the program are in Humboldt, Tehama, San Bernardino, and San Benito counties. Ten helitack bases will eventually acquire one, with two Hawks held in reserve.
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