USA — An Azusa city official is proposing to keep at least one “super scooper” firefighting plane in the area year-round. It is not an inexpensive proposal. The Los Angeles County Fire Department currently leases the giant planes from Canada. Teaming up with other cities to cover the cost may be one option.
Two super scooper firefighting planes dumped a combined 3,600 gallons of water per drop on the Colby Fire in the hills of Glendora in mid-January. Five homes were destroyed and at least seven were damaged by the fire.
Firefighters say along with water-dropping choppers and other aircraft, the super scoopers were essential in getting the fire under control and preventing more devastation.
“We need to have that tool on a full-time basis here in Southern California,” said Azusa City Councilman Angel Carrillo.
Carrillo believes when the fire pushed into the foothills of his city, homes would have been destroyed had it not been for the extra help of the super scoopers. Carrillo is leading an effort to keep at least one of the giant firefighting plans in the area year-round.
A six-month lease to keep the planes, on loan from Canada, runs out at the end of the month.
“What I would like to see is an agreement between the counties, the state and the federal government to have on site in Southern California a permanent super scooper,” said Carrillo.
“If there is a way that there’s a funding mechanism that would support either leasing or purchasing CL-14 super scooper aircraft that are here in Southern California year-round, we would support that,” said L.A. County Fire Deputy Chief John Tripp.
L.A. County Fire uses money from its operating budget to lease the super scoopers from Canada.
County fire officials say during a normal fire season they would keep the super scoopers for up to 90 days, but this is no normal fire season. They’ve extended the lease six months at a cost of nearly $4 million.
“That’s cost us approximately $1 million over what we budgeted for, but at the same time this had been the worst drought year on record,” said Carrillo.
To buy a super scooper would cost around $34 million, plus an additional $2 million a year to maintain the plane. Fire officials say they are considering leasing the super scoopers beyond six months.
“Probably be confident that we will extend it maybe Match 14th because there has not been significant rain again,” said Tripp.