Public Service

45 Helicopters Combat Raging California Wildfires

By Frank Wolfe | November 13, 2018
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Woolsey Fire evacuation from Malibu on November 9 2018

Woolsey Fire evacuation from Malibu on November 9 2018. Photo courtesy of Cyclonebiskit / CC BY-SA 4.0

Nearly 9,000 firefighters, fixed-wing aircraft, ground equipment and 45 helicopters, including Sikorsky S-70 Firehawks and UH-60A Utility Hawks, Boeing CH-47s, Bell UH-1s, and Sikorsky S-64 Skycranes, are battling three wildfires across California, including Camp Fire, which has killed 56 people, incinerated the town of Paradise and is on record as the deadliest fire in state history.

The second deadliest blaze in the state's history, the Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles in 1933, killed 29.

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High Santa Ana winds and dry conditions have fanned flames that have destroyed more than 8,700 homes in the state, according to Cal Fire. The wildfires have affected more than 400 square miles. Camp Fire, 90 miles north of Sacramento, has blown across 125,000 acres and is only 35 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

While Camp Fire has devastated parts of northern California, the Woolsey fire has not spared southern California. A number of celebrities, including Will Smith, Cher, Mark Hamill and Kim Kardashian West evacuated their homes, while the homes of Miley Cyrus, Neil Young, Gerard Butler, Shannen Doherty and Robin Thicke were among those destroyed.

A Los Angeles County Fire Department S-70 Firehawk helped knock down a blaze endangering homes and fleeing motorists along Freeway 118 in Simi Valley Nov. 12. Canada and a number of states lent their assets to the firefighting efforts. For example, three CH-47Ds from Oregon-based Columbia Helicopters helped combat the Woolsey Fire and the Camp Fire. The CH-47Ds have a 2,800 gallon internal tank capacity, a 2,600 gallon bucket capacity, and an ability to hold foam, gel, and flame retardant, in addition to water.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has requested aid from the White House. In response to the White House blaming "poor" forest management for Camp Fire, Brown said that federal and state governments have to improve more forest management, but that "managing all the forests everywhere we can does not stop climate change, and those who deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedies that we're now witnessing, and will continue to witness in the coming years."

California fire investigators have said that downed power lines may have sparked the Camp Fire blaze. About 15 minutes before firefighters in Butte County received the first dispatch Nov. 8, Pacific Gas and Electric reported possible downed power lines near Poe Dam.

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