Supervisors OK on-call plan for firefighting aircraft
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors last week approved a recommendation by Chairwoman Dianne Jacob and Supervisor Bill Horn to implement the Unified Disaster Council’s plan for an Aerial Fire Protection Program that would augment current regional aerial firefighting assets.
“This plan allows us to immediately call for additional aerial firefighting assets to be on hand year-round,” said Jacob. “This strategy is a more cost-effective approach to giving our citizens additional protection from the wildfires we know will come.”
Fifth District Supervisor Bill Horn said, “You have to have a battle plan in getting firefighting resources to fires quickly, and by pre-positioning aircraft such as the Martin Mars air tanker, the DC 7, additional Type 1 and 2 helicopters and military helicopters with buckets, I think we are now better prepared.
“In addition, we have removed more than a half million dead, dying and diseased trees and continue vegetation management to reduce the fuel source for fires.”
The approximate cost recommended to pre-position these aircraft is $250,000. The Chief Administrative Officer has also been directed to work closely with the 18 member cities of the Unified Disaster Council to obtain regional financial support for the supplemental aircraft.
The County of San Diego has invested more than $135 million since 2003 to improve fire protection and emergency services, including two new firefighting helicopters, dozens of new fire trucks, an improved communication system and a pilot program last year that leased two Quebec-based Superscoopers and one tactical aircraft during a three-month period. The Superscoopers are not part of this year’s plan.
The new program will provide a significant surge of aerial firefighting resources year-round on a “call when needed” basis, said Jacob. Funding will only be expended if aircraft are used, and any leftover monies could be carried over to future fire seasons.
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