Incredible Hulk to the Rescue

'Incredible Hulk' helicopter hired by SDG&E

By Artie Ojeda
|  Thursday, Oct 8, 2009  |  Updated 11:03 PM PDT
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Artie Ojeda

San Diego Gas & Electric brought out city and county bigwigs to help show off what they will officially be known as Copter 3 or Helo-Tanker 3.

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Incredible Hulk to the Rescue

Just in time for the Santa Ana season, San Diego County has a new, imposing, firefighting tool.
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Just in time for the Santa Ana season, San Diego County has a new, imposing, firefighting tool.
   
It's a massive helicopter -- also known as a helo-tanker -- and you might be surprised who's footing the bill.

It is billed as one of the largest firefighting helicopters on the planet It's nickname: The Incredible Hulk.

"The impact of these helicopters, the drops they make on these fires, they absolutely have the ability to keep our fires small," said Brian Fennessy of San Diego Fire/Rescue.

The helicopter is being leased by San Diego Gas & Electric 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.

"It's a few million dollars, but if you look at that in comparison to the devastation of the wildfires, it's a drop in the bucket," said SDG&E spokesman Dave Geier.

It's still not clear what the charge is after those first two hours, though.

"Our intention is to set up a ... regional fund so we don't have to have a meeting of any single City Council during a fire to see if they want to pay for more than two hours," County Supervisore Ron Roberts said.

The chopper's water-carrying capacity is 2,500 gallons, and 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.

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