Three familiar fire-fighting aircraft are being sent home early this year, thanks to Mother Nature.
“We’ve had an inordinant amount of rain and green grasses are growing,” said Los Angeles County Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin, who oversees Air Operations/Air and Wildlands Division. “The fire season has passed us as of now.”
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The Quebec 1 and 2, better known as “super scooper” planes and the Helitanker 743, a helicopter with large water tanks and a drop-down nozzle for sucking up water from nearby sources, are leased from Canada every year for the months of September, October and November, which are traditionally our driest and most fire-prone months.
The aircraft have been part of the county’s firefighting efforts for the last 17 years.
“Usually we ask for 15-day extensions because of the weather, but it’s been so good lately and the fuel moisture is up, so we’re only using the 15 day extension that started December 1,” Martin said.
The contract is up for the Quebec 1 and 2 at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and the Helitanker 743’s is up at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Los Angeles County pays $5 million over the three-month “fire season” but, as Martin pointed out, even if there are no large fires, the aircraft pays for itself in the amount of work done to douse small fires before they become big, multi-day events.