IRVINE, Calif., - Orange County Fire Authority in partnership with Southern California Edison (SCE) have contracted Coulson Aviation USA to bring its NVG aerial fire fighting program to the USA.
The "Next Generation Aerial Operations Based Pilot Program" is a 150-day night aerial firefighting program that is structured similarly to the highly successful program in Victoria, Australia. It comprises use of a Type 1 helitanker (1,000+ gallons) capable of hover-filling at night from the nearest available water source or portable tank, and a Type 2 intelligence-gathering helicopter. The Type 1 helitanker providing night fire suppression, working in coordination with an intelligence gathering helicopter for risk/benefit decision-making will be the first of its kind in the U.S.
"This could be a game changer thanks to Southern California Edison. Fighting wildfires at night is optimal because weather conditions are more favorable – temperatures are down, humidity up and winds typically lighter," said Orange County Fire Authority Fire Chief Brian Fennessy. "The ability to have this aerial resource that can precisely drop large volumes of water on a fire will make a significant difference. And the ability to measure its effectiveness will help us determine if the success outweighs the risk."
The Type I helicopter that Coulson will operate is a Sikorsky S-61N for the night fire suppression operation, as well as the smaller Type 2, Sikorsky S-76B helicopter to conduct reconnaissance and provide a supervision platform. The S-76B is night vision goggle equipped and is fitted with a HD thermal imaging camera to assist in the safe management of night fire suppression operations and hot spot detection.