CalFire Expecting First Blackhawk By Early November

CalFire Deputy Director Mike Mohler says the brand new Polish-made Blackhawk Sikorsky S-70i will be designed and outfitted to the agency’s specs.

Mohler and I recently sat down for a one on one about his agency’s new air fleet replacement program, fire season prognosis and a whole bunch of insider information that I will report in future stories.

For years, CalFire has been using the Vietnam-era Huey helicopter with a belly fluid capacity of 360 gallons. The new Blackhawks will carry up to 1,000 gallons and because of its larger frame it can also accommodate a hoist system for rescues. The S-70i will also be equipped to fly at night, something the Huey’s weren’t able to do. Here’s a picture of the similar model Blackhawk currently used by the LA County Fire Department.

Mohler said the state purchased 12 Blackhawks at a cost of $25-million each. The funding request dates back to a Blue Ribbon Fire Task Force Commission during the Governor Schwarzenegger administration. The first Blackhawk is expected to be delivered by November with each of the others being delivered as they are built and outfitted with necessary equipment and avionics.

Crew and supply capacities will be larger on the new airship because of the larger frame – this allows for fewer flights, which minimizes turnaround times.

Mohler said because of lobbying by California Democratic State Senator Dianne Feinstein and the late Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, CalFire received federal funding to buy 7, C-130 Air Tankers. Mohler says 6 of the new C-130’s will be equipped to do water and retardant drops while the 7th will be designed to haul equipment and crews. He added that this acquisition will make CalFire the only fire agency in the United States with its own fleet of C-130’s. Here’s a picture of a similar design and model.

Mohler says the air fleet replacement program is way overdue and will greatly benefit firefighting and rescue efforts, which will, of course, improve the ability to save lives and protect property.

Listen to my interview with Mike Mohler on Wake Up Call.

Photos: CalFire, LA County Fire, USFS

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