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Santa Barbara County’s first Firehawk helicopter nears the end of the conversion process

It should be ready to fight fire in Southern California later this fall

Santa Barbara County Helicopter 964
Santa Barbara County Helicopter 964 at Centennial Airport, April 29, 2021. By Paul Filmer of Skippyscage.com.

Santa Barbara County Fire Department Helicopter 964 is in Colorado to have a 1,000-gallon belly tank and extended main landing gear installed. This is part of the process of converting the aircraft formerly operated by the National Guard into a firefighting Firehawk. It arrived at Centennial Airport near Denver last week after receiving system upgrades and maintenance in Enterprise, Alabama. The former Blackhawk helicopter was purchased in 2019 and underwent a retrofit with new state-of-the-art avionics, paint and a new rescue hoist.

The Fire Department said fundraising efforts by Direct Relief International resulted in a donation of $1,151,000 which was used to offset the cost of the retrofit.

The Firehawk will be able to carry 12 passengers, including two critically injured patients, as compared to five passengers and one critically injured patient on the Huey. It is also being outfitted with night-flying capability.

The Fire Department expects the aircraft to be operationally ready to respond to fire-related missions in Fall 2021, after focused training has been completed for the pilots, mechanics, and other County Air Support Unit staff.

Santa Barbara fire department helicopter
Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit’s Fire Copter 964 undergoing maintenance at Arista in Enterprise, Alabama. SBCFD photo.
Santa Barbara County FD Helicopter 964
Santa Barbara County FD Helicopter 964 in 2020. SBCFD photo.
Santa Barbara County Helicopter 308
Santa Barbara County Helicopter 308, a UH-1H Huey. N205KS. Photo by John Goldin in 2020.

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