California is considering whether to spend nearly $100 million on four fire-fighting helicopters.
CAL FIRE currently flies helicopters called Hueys, which were originally built for use in the Vietnam War. It wants to replace those with a dozen specially outfitted Black Hawk helicopters, rebranded as FIREHAWK, which cost approximately $23 million a piece.
Mike Slattery, president of United Rotorcraft, the company that won the bid to convert the aircraft, says these new helicopters have water tanks that are three-times as large as the Hueys. They are also equipped to better fight fires at night.
“If you're going to make that kind of substantial investment in aircraft, I would think that you would want to get the best, most capable and reliable machine out there, that's going to give you the most bang for your buck,” he said.
Los Angeles County already has a few of the FIREHAWK and plans to convert two more. The city of San Diego and Ventura County are also placing orders.
Members of the Assembly and Senate will consider the request this week, with a final vote expected on May 10.