In February 2004, San Diego County Board of Supervisors created the Fire and Life Safety Helicopter Operating Council to oversee the operation of a fire and life safety helicopter program. In February 2009, the board dissolved the council as obsolete.
“We don’t need it,” Supervisor Bill Horn said of the recent 5-0 vote. “It hadn’t met for five years.”
The 2004 action authorized an expenditure to contribute to a study on a regional program, directed by the county’s chief administrative officer, to return to the board in 90 days to determine the type of helicopter and 45 days after completion of the regional study to determine other needs.
The board established funding for the eventual acquisition of a helicopter and requested that each supervisor submit the nomination of one fire service professional to be considered for appointment to the Fire and Life Safety Helicopter Operating Council.
The council’s purpose was to oversee the operation of a fire and life safety helicopter program and to advise the supervisors on all matters pertaining to the helicopter. The council consisted of six members. In addition to the members appointed by the supervisors, the county sheriff nominated a sixth member.
The council sought input from the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association, the City of San Diego Fire Department, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the U.S. Forest Service, the military, the Sheriff’s Department and other sources that could provide expertise on the region’s aerial firefighting needs.
Discussions included type of aircraft, maintenance programs, pilot qualifications, program management, and recruitment and retention.
In July 2004, the supervisors authorized the purchase of two fire and life safety helicopters and gave operational control of those helicopters to the Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff’s Department took control of those two Bell 205 A-1 helicopters on June 27, 2005, and stationed them at the ASTREA (Aerial Support To Regional Enforcement Agencies) base at Gillespie Field.
“We have an aerial division now,” Horn said. “We don’t need that commission.”