The Orange County Fire Authority on Thursday announced that it’s getting two new firefighting helicopters that will replace a pair of 55-year-old UH-1H “Super Hueys.”
The two older choppers were grounded in 2020 “due to [the] significantly increased cost of operating these legacy aircraft,” the OFCA said.
Both new helicopters, which are scheduled to arrive at the OFCA in the fall of 2023, are Sikorsky S70M FIREHAWKS.
The FIREHAWKS “are already a staple in the fire service as all of our surrounding peer agencies – from Santa Barbara and Ventura to LA and San Diego – have had these state-of-the-art multi-mission helicopters in their respective fleets for years,” said the OFCA.
The new additions will join the two Bell 412EP helicopters, which are already in service, and give the fire authority four operational aircraft for the first time since 2020.
“A true force multiplier, the new aircraft’s water-dropping capabilities eclipse that of the Bells by 256% per tank load,” the OFCA said.
The FIREHAWKS can carry 1,000 gallons of water compared to the Bell’s 350-gallon capacity.
Officials added that the new aircrafts also dramatically improve the level of safety for crews and patients during “high-risk missions.”
Before the Sikorskys arrive at the OFCA, however, the aircrafts need to be transformed from Blackhawk to FIREHAWK helicopters.
The OFCA said it’s planning to chronicle the transformation through monthly social media posts using the hashtag OCFAFIREHAWKS.