After 40 meetings two southern California agencies still battle over aviation responsibilities

The Orange County Fire Authority and the County Sheriff’s office sometimes both send helicopters to the same rescue incidents

Orange County Fire Authority helicopters
Orange County Fire Authority helicopters. OCFA photo.

For almost a year the Orange County Sheriff’s office and the Orange County Fire Authority have battled over which agency has the responsibility for providing helicopters for rescue incidents in the Southern California county. Occasionally helicopters from both agencies show up at a scene when only one is needed, creating safety issues when neither one wants to back down. We first wrote about this situation May 6, 2017.

And it has gotten worse, according to an article in the Orange County Register. Below is an excerpt:

The battles over which agency should conduct air rescues in Orange County have become so frequent and so dangerous that county supervisors decided Tuesday to refer the problem to a state agency in the hope it can help settle a dispute.

The board’s direction came after Orange County Fire Authority Chief Patrick McIntosh told supervisors his pilots would continue responding to air rescue calls and ignore Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ recent decision to unilaterally take over helicopter rescue operations in the county’s remote areas.

Hutchens’ announcement Jan. 16 formally ended a prior agreement that named Orange County Fire Authority as the county’s primary responder. It also came after two years during which pilots from the Sheriff’s Department and the fire authority have regularly clashed, with helicopters from both agencies racing to rescue scenes on dozens of calls, at times arguing over radio and face-to-face after flying in the same airspace.

One thought on “After 40 meetings two southern California agencies still battle over aviation responsibilities”

  1. Guess you can’t site either organization for using common sense. If pilots from each organization are “racing” each other to a rescue scene, each air unit has lost the ability to conduct safe operations. I surmise Orange County has attempted some of the obvious solutions such as dividing up the county into response zones, combining the two organizational units into one air unit, or defunding one of the programs (essentially creating a single air rescue unit)?

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