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County Fire Dept. Demonstrates 'Super Scooper' Aircraft as Fire Season Opens

The plane holds 1,600 gallons of water and can collect water from unmanned sources, such as lakes and the ocean.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department on Tuesday introduced two Bombardier CL-415 firefighting aircraft, also known as “Super Scoopers,” which have been leased from the Canadian province of Quebec in preparation for the current fire season.

The “Super Scoopers,” which the county fire department will utilize for the next four months, arrived at Van Nuys Airport on Aug. 30. At a press conference Tuesday, county Board of Supervisors Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky spoke of the effectiveness of the “Super Scooper” aircraft, which have been leased the past 19 years by Los Angeles County.

“No metropolitan fire department in the world has the firefighting aircraft capability that Los Angeles County does,” Yaroslavsky said. “We invest in the safety of our citizens and the protection of their property, and it’s proven to be very effective and cost-effective over the years.

“These are the highest risk fire months for our region,” Yaroslavsky added. “We have Santa Ana winds and hot dry conditions that lead to major brush fires.”

The county of Los Angeles also has been leasing two Erickson Sky-Crane aircraft for each fire season for the past seven years. 

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby and his staff gave a demonstration of the “Super Scooper” aircraft, which can hold 1,600 gallons of water.

The largest of the current firefighting aircraft can hold 1,000 gallons of water. Some helicopters can hold only 360 gallons of water.

“You see the significant difference in the capacity of water they can pick up,” Osby said of the “Super Scoopers." 

In addition to being able to carry more water, both the “Super Scoopers” and the Sky-Cranes have the ability to find and collect water from unmanned water sources, such as lakes and the ocean.

Many of the firefighting aircraft require the assistance of firefighters at fire engines and hydrants, Osby said.

“We’re in the critical stages of the fire season,” Osby said. “At the end of September, we start the Santa Ana wind season. Between September and the end of December, we average about 8 to 12 wind events. And the wind is a critical factor in terms of controlling wildfires.”

As for the Sky-Crane aircraft, which was not on hand Tuesday, 1,800 gallons of water is its maximum, more than quadruple the amount that a normal firefighting helicopter can hold.

However, despite the massive artillery that the county fire department shells out each year—at a cost of more than $5 million—Yaroslavsky and Osby stressed that residents must do their part to prevent wildfires.

“Whenever there’s a brush fire or a wildfire, the homes that tend to be saved are the ones that have cleared flammable material from around their structures as the law requires,” Yaroslavsky said.

Yaroslavsky called the $5 million tab “money well spent,” and pointed towards weather conditions during 2012 as reason to expect that this fire season could be a brutal one.

“We are cruising for a bruising,” Yaroslavsky said. “We’re likely to have multiple brush fires in our county this year. We hope for the best but we are prepared for the worst.”

D. Jude September 05, 2012 at 08:36 PM
why can't the county purchase our own scoopers?? seems to me after leasing these planes, along with the Super Crane Helicopter, we the Taxpaying Public is getting Riiped off~~! Right LAFD??? Have the Public take a ride north to the Mojave Airport and take a look at All the acres and acres of commercial planes and helicopters that set idle and rotting in the desert. and most of them are more than Flight Worthy...we the public , as usual, are getting ripped off~~!~!
John September 05, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Dale, I believe that idea was visited back in the late nineties and at that time the costs of owning, storing, and upkeep was more than leasing them for part of the year.
R Y A N September 05, 2012 at 10:31 PM
The Lease arrangement is essentially a time-share agreement; the economies of this arrangement permits use of the same aircraft during other areas' times of need. IF AND WHEN we can't contract for, or are outbid, for our time of need, then going "in-house" for equipment that would sit idle most of the time might become a study to be done for the sake of study only. Again, time-sharing the use of these specifically-designed aircraft would then create a program whereby Los Angeles County became the landlord looking for tenants to use the County assets off peak. If anyone thinks government can do it for less, well ... PROVE IT!

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