New firefighting helicopter technology developed by Mark Whaling, who is acting fire chief of a battalion in Los Angeles County and owner of Whaling Fire Line Equipment could assist in cutting response times for emergency helicopter services where they attend to wildfires. Orange County Fire Authority and Anaheim Fire and Rescue announced the new “fire-hydrant” for helicopters in a news conference on June 11, 2018. Battalion Chief Craig Coby said in the conference “We’re not afforded the ability to have a close reservoir in many areas of the county, so this is technology that we’d be very interested in moving forward.” Chief Coby heads air operations for the OCFA.
This addition should help with the fire season starting in SoCal and the turnaround times for water drops to the remote areas wherein wildfires threaten. Inventor Chief Whaling said the idea came to him after assisting with the Canyon 2 fire in October of 2017. That fire destroyed 15 homes and over 9,000 acres in an eight-day span displacing thousands in the Anaheim Hills and North Tustin areas. He felt this would provide a faster and easier way to obtain the water needed to put out the blaze.
What Is the New Firefighting Helicopter Technology?
The new technology aptly named the Remotely Activated Snorkel Site or RASS for short, provides the pilot with the opportunity to turn a water tank on from the air to fill the aircraft’s tanks. This eliminates the need for ground assistance as the 1,700-gallon metal tank uses robot-controlled valves to take water from the area’s municipal water system. Fire emergency helicopters, often called “snorkel helicopters” typically are required to fly to far-away reservoirs or other waterways to source water for the fire attack.
The development, according to Chief Whaling, took much trial and error. If mass produced, the system would cost between 3-5k to install which is around twice the cost of your typical hydrant. However, with the ability to make emergency helicopter fire treatment and extinguishing much easier in remote areas, we can see how this new firefighting helicopter technology could quickly gain interest if this year’s trial period in Anaheim Hills is successful.
Impact on Fighting Fires in Other Areas
The first of its kind in the country, this new firefighting helicopter technology could assist nearly every state of the nation specifically those areas where open water sources are scarce. “This really can reduce the amount of time it takes to refill and can significantly reduce the number of water drops they can do during firefighting operations,” Anaheim Fire spokesman Daron Wyatt said. During the demonstration, amid the burned hills of the Canyon 2 fire site, the snorkel helicopter hovered above the RASS and siphoned nearly 2,000 gallons of water within 45 seconds. Another fantastic benefit for those areas in the most need throughout the country is that helicopters will not have to be specially modified to use the technology providing easy use once in place.
While the rest of the country waits for the new firefighting helicopter technology testing to be completed this year near Avenida de Santiago, emergency helicopter operators are still on call to assist in wildfire suppression. For emergency helicopter services or urgent flights please contact FairLifts.