High-Tech Firefighting Helitankers Fly Day & Night Protect California Live Demonstration

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On Monday, July 10 at 10:00 a.m., a live demonstration of the QRF will be held at the Santa Fe Dam (15501 E. Arrow Highway, Irwindale).

High-Tech Firefighting Helitankers Fly Day & Night Protect California

Live demonstration

ROSEMEAD, Calif., July 3, 2023 — Under a new contract with Southern California Edison (SCE), a fleet of firefighting helitankers, pilots and support crews, known as the Quick Reaction Force (QRF), will continue to suppress wildfires across Southern California through the rest of the year.

On Monday, July 10 at 10:00 a.m., a live demonstration of the QRF will be held at the Santa Fe Dam (15501 E. Arrow Highway, Irwindale).

The Coulson CH-47 Chinook helitankers are the industry’s largest effective water and fire retardant-dropping helitankers. They can “hover fill” 3,000 gallons in 90 seconds with a retractable snorkel, allowing them to return to the fire line more quickly. They can also operate at night when supported by the Sikorsky S-76 intelligence and recon helicopter. Last year, the QRF dropped more than 700,000 gallons of water on more than 25 wildfires. 

The helitankers are operated by Coulson Aviation and managed and leased by three fire departments:  the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD), and Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD). SCE has sponsored the QRF since 2021.

The QRF is upgrading from two to three Boeing CH-47 Chinook helitankers to prepare for peak wildfire season. During peak wildfire season, the QRF fleet will consist of:

  • Three Boeing CH-47 Chinook helitankers that can each carry up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant
  • One Sikorsky S-76 intelligence and recon helicopter
  • One mobile retardant base (MRB) which allows for faster turnaround time for the helitankers

A critical component of the QRF is the MRB, which includes tanks that can be filled while the helitankers are hovering and can mix up to 18,000 gallons of retardant per hour. During peak wildfire season, the MRB will be positioned close to fires in pre-determined locations in each county.

The QRF will also be available when called upon by partner fire departments, prioritized for fire suppression activities within SCE’s 50,000-square-mile service area. If needed, all three helitankers, the Sikorsky S-76 intelligence recon helicopter, and the MRB will be assigned to a wildfire to provide overwhelming suppression power.

SCE nearly doubled its contribution this year and provided nearly $35 million to local fire agency partners to fund the QRF program’s standby costs. The fire agencies lease the helitankers from Coulson Aviation and provide operational control, staffing, and, if called into action, the requesting fire department will pay for the operational costs.

QRF Media Event Details:

A live demonstration of the QRF will take place at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, July 10 at the Santa Fe Dam (15501 E. Arrow Highway, Baldwin Park).  To attend the demonstration, please RSVP with the LACoFD at 323-881-2413 by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, July 7, 2023.

Speakers:

  • Steven D. Powell – President and CEO of Southern California Edison
  • Anthony Marrone – Fire Chief, Los Angeles County Fire Department
  • Brian Fennessy – Fire Chief, Orange County Fire Authority
  • Dustin Gardner – Fire Chief, Ventura County Fire Department

Quotes

“The QRF has demonstrated its effectiveness and value in suppressing potentially large and destructive wildfires. While we continue to talk about wildfires in the context of seasons, we know this hazard is with us year-round and our approach to wildfire mitigation assumes that there is no offseason.”

  • Steven Powell, President and CEO of Southern California Edison

“Our goal to keep all new wildfires 10 acres or less 95% of the time is not possible without the most state-of-the-art fleet of firefighting aircraft in the world. That is exactly what the QRF is, and its year-round availability is a significant step in fighting what has become a year-round season of potentially deadly and destructive wildfires in Southern California and beyond.”

  • Brian Fennessy, Chief, Orange County Fire Authority

“In the past year, the LACoFD has dispatched and utilized Helitanker 55 on numerous wildfires within our jurisdiction, including the Route Fire in Castaic that burned 5,208 acres. The Quick Reaction Force resources were essential in minimizing the duration of the fire where temperatures peaked above 111 degrees for firefighters battling the blaze on the ground. This year, in anticipation of a hotter-than-normal summer with increased vegetation due to the rainfall, the QRF resources will again be a welcome addition to our world-renowned air operations fleet.”

  • Anthony C. Marrone, Chief of Los Angeles County Fire Department.

“The CH-47s pack a big punch. Putting that much water on a fire soon after it starts can help keep it from becoming a devastating large fire our state has seen too often in recent years.”

  • Dustin Gardner, Chief of Ventura County Fire Department 

About OCFA: The Orange County Fire Authority is a regional fire-rescue service agency that serves nearly 2 million residents in 23 cities and the unincorporated area of the county. The member jurisdictions include Aliso Viejo, Buena Park, Cypress, Dana Point, Garden Grove, Irvine, La Palma, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, Santa Ana, Stanton, San Juan Capistrano, Seal Beach, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, Yorba Linda and the County of Orange.

About VCFD: Composed of approximately 600 dedicated men and women, the Ventura County Fire Department is an all-hazard, full-service agency. We proudly provide fire protection, medical aid, rescue, hazardous materials response and a variety of other services to the public. We serve more than 480,000 people in Ventura County. Our response area covers 848 square miles and includes all unincorporated areas and the following cities: Ojai, Port Hueneme, Moorpark, Camarillo, Santa Paula, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks.

About LACoFD: The Los Angeles County Fire Department is responsible for protecting the lives and property of 4.1 million residents living in 1.25 million housing units in 60 cities and all unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County (County), along with the City of La Habra located in Orange County. The Fire Department’s service area includes suburban neighborhoods, city centers, commercial districts, sandy beaches, mountain ranges, and more. There are 5,000 personnel working within the Fire Department’s emergency and business operations bureaus, including firefighters, dispatchers, lifeguards, nurses, and administrative support.

About Southern California Edison: An Edison International (NYSE: EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of approximately 15 million via 5 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.

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