Supervisors in Kern County, Calif. have approved a six-year plan to build a small air force to fight wildfires. The fire chief wants to add two new helicopters and replace the single fire command and scouting fixed-wing aircraft.
The Kern County Fire Dept. now operates a Bell Helicopter Super Huey. The county would also build new hangars and helipads closer to areas prone to wildland fires. The cost of the project is $17.3 million, but could be reduced by selling helicopter services to government agencies and through paybacks from state and federal firefighting efforts. The goal would be to decrease response time so helicopters get to small fires before they burn into big ones, saving money in the long run.