A new Black Hawk helicopter will be added to San Diego County's fleet of firefighting equipment in time for the peak of wildfire season, officials announced Wednesday.
The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, secured through a joint partnership between the county and San Diego Gas & Electric, will be available to Cal Fire crews for dispatch across Southern California.
The helicopter can fly at 140 miles per hour, and can hold 850 gallons of water for drops three times faster than a traditional firefighting helicopter.
With the addition of the Black Hawk helicopter, the county now has more than a half-dozen firefighting helicopters in their arsenal, including SDG&E's "SkyMaverick" aircrane heli-tanker.
The aircrane was added to San Diego's fleet in 2018. It can hold about 2,650 gallons of water and can be filled in less than a minute.
“Safety is our highest priority. The new wildfire prevention assets will complement SDG&E’s decade-long fire risk preparedness program, which is aimed at identifying and better managing the effects of extreme weather and making our region more resilient,” said Caroline Winn, SDG&E’s chief operating officer. “We are committed to continuing our work with the best and the brightest in our region so that together, we can make every day safer than the last for the communities we are privileged to serve.”
Other wildfire equipment unveiled Wednesday includes an internet and phone service-equipped tactical command vehicle and evacuation map books for first responders.
The tactical command vehicle is a high-clearance off-road vehicle that can host full internet and satellite phone connectivity in remote places.
The vehicle can travel into challenging terrain, allowing SDG&E to deploy its team faster and closer to the wildfire while maintaining full communication.
In addition, SDG&E will add two new information centers to Ramona where residents can charge phones and receive updated information in the event of an emergency. Nine Community Resource Centers are already available throughout the county, and have been activated during power outages.
While Cal Fire officials warn there is not "wildfire season" anymore, the best conditions for wildfires -- low humidity, high temperatures and dry fuel -- traditionally occur from mid-summer to the fall.
The county recommends that all residents be prepared for wildfires by ensuring their homes have a defensible space and preparing an emergency plan in case they need to evacuate at a moment's notice. For more information, visit readysandiego.org.