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Coulson Aviation to take aerial firefighting to the US

31st July 2019 - 11:30 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Coulson Aviation will provide its aerial fire fighting programme for the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) in partnership with Southern California Edison.

Coulson’s aerial operations based pilot programe is a 150-day night aerial firefighting programme that 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 provides night fire suppression, working in coordination with an intelligence gathering helicopter for risk/benefit decision-making.

The company will operate a Sikorsky S-61N for the night fire suppression operations, as well as a smaller 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.

The new assets will operate under an exclusive-use contract with OCFA and be available to respond on a 7/24-hour basis to fire agency requests within Southern California.  

Brian Fennessy, OCFA fire chief, said: ‘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.

‘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.’

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