San Diego County and utility company agree to share costs of firefighting helitanker lease
The utility company will pay for the first two hours of any new flight responding to a wildfire, while the county will cover the second two flight hours
By Karen Kucher
The San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN DIEGO — County supervisors on Tuesday approved an agreement to pay up to $150,000 to share in the costs of leasing a Black Hawk helitanker to help expand the region’s firefighting options during peak fire season.
The agreement, which will remain in place until next June once it is finalized, calls for the UH-60 helicopter to be stationed in North County during red flag weather events when the risk for wildfires is highest.
The county will share in the cost of the lease with SDG&E.
Under the agreement, the utility company will pay for the first two hours of any new flight, while the county will cover the second two flight hours. The county could pay a maximum of $150,000, depending on flight time and reimbursements from state and federal agencies. The county already shares a lease with SDG&E for an Erickson Skycrane helicopter, which was used in fighting the West fire in Alpine, the Rangeland fire in Ramona, the Pasqual fire and the Recycle fire in Campo.
“The county is seeking to increase its aerial assets to strengthen its initial fire suppression attack capabilities and SDG&E has offered to enter into an agreement with the County to make this second helicopter available to the region for year-round fire suppression,” said a county report on the agenda item.
The full cost of the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter lease entered into by SDG&E with Helistream, Inc. was not disclosed.
The region already has 10 aircraft available for initial attacks on fires, including a U.S. Forest Service helicopter, three Cal Fire planes, three county Sheriff’s Department/ Cal Fire helicopters, two city of San Diego helicopters and the Erickson Skycrane helicopter leased by SDG&E and the county.
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