San Diego County has access to a new firefighting tool - a new helo-tanker leased by San Diego Gas & Electric for jobs that require heavy-lifting.
On Tuesday, San Diego County supervisors approved spending up to $150,000 for a maximum of 20 hours of flight time once the helicopter is made available to fight wildfires in the county.
Billed as one of the largest firefighting helicopters on the planet and nicknamed "The Incredible Hulk," the chopper's water-carrying capacity is 2,500 gallons. It can fill up in 30-40 seconds within a 150-foot radius of any water source.
A single drop by the Incredible Hulk is actually larger than one by a Super Scooper aircraft and six times the capacity of current city and county fire helicopters.
SDG&E is leasing the helicopter as part of its Community Fire Safety Program. The cost of leasing the helicopter, which will be used for such other tasks as utility pole replacement is set between $1.5 million and $3 million for two months, but in an effort to reach out to the entire community, utility officials said, SDG&E is making the helo-tanker available to all fire agencies in the county free of charge for the first two hours of every fire it's called out on.
After the initial two hours, the county must then pay $7,500 per hour to use the tanker.
Money for the program comes from funds left over from a $3.2 million county appropriation last year for fire prevention and protecting, according to the North County Times. That fund that was used to lease two water-dropping, Canadian "superscooper" airplanes last year.