World’s largest firefighting helicopters join Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura County fleets

Two of the world’s largest firefighting helicopters are among the fleet of aircraft made available to firefighters in Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties operating a joint disaster-response team set to debut on Tuesday, June 15.

Southern California Edison provided about $18 million to fund the Quick Response Force, a multi-agency team assigned to battle wildfires across Southern California, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Thanh Nguyen said.

The arrangement gives OCFA, as well as the Los Angeles County and Ventura County fire departments, access to a pair of Chinook CH-47s helitankers, which are capable of flying day or night and can each carry up to 3,000 gallons of fire-retardant or water.

“That’s a lot of firefighting power, if you will, when you can drop 3,000 gallons of water onto a brush fire,” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Thanh Nguyen told City News Service. “It’s an important tool.”

A Sikorsky S-61 helitanker capable of dropping 1,000 gallon payloads is also part of the QRF’s arsenal of firefighting equipment. The collaborative effort augments each participating agency’s existing aerial fleet, and will operate for 180 days during the peak of summer.

Millions of people in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties live in wildfire-prone areas. The QRF was formed in light of the recurring threat of disaster these communities face. It makes its debut Tuesday amidst historically dry conditions and predictions of an exceptionally dire wildfire season.

There will be a Monday news conference at the Joint Forces Training base Los Alamitos, 11206 Lexington Drive, in Los Alamitos, with Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby, Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy, Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen and Southern California Edison President and CEO Kevin Payne expected to attend. A hover-filling and water-dropping demonstration will follow.

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