San Diego County will be adding a third firefighting helicopter to their fleet, implementing one of the recommendations in a report on the 14 fires that broke out in May in the northern part of the county. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday allocated $5.2 million for another helicopter to become part of the County Sheriff’s stable of aircraft.
The Supervisors also approved contracting with the city of San Diego to use its night-flying helicopters for fighting fires or making rescues at night.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s office Astrea unit (Aerial Support to Regional Enforcement Agencies) currently operates the following helicopters:
- One MD500D. This is the oldest in the fleet, the workhorse of ASTREA since the late 1980s. The “D” model will eventually be replaced with a more powerful helicopter.
- Three MD500F, better suited for high altitude and high temperatures than the MD500D.
- Two Bell 205 A1++, for fire and rescue
- One Bell 407 equipped with a data-link antenna and associated hardware which makes it possible to pass a live video feed to ground personnel. It is also equipped with a FLIR 8500 thermal imager with laser designator.