City of San Diego Buys Firehawk Helicopter to Bolster Firefighting Arsenal

Image courtesy City of San Diego

pr:The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department will have a powerful new tool at its disposal to help fight wildfires, thanks to the purchase this week of a new Firehawk helicopter – a modified version of a military Black Hawk helicopter capable of dousing fires with 1,000 gallons of water at a time.

The Firehawk is an adaptable helicopter that can perform aerial firefighting, plan missions and direct other firefighting aircraft as well as assist with medical transports and search and rescue efforts.

“As wildfires continue to ravage our state, we must do everything in our power to make sure the San Diego region is as prepared as possible for the next major fire,” said Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. “We must continue to ensure our firefighters have the most advanced tools at their disposal to keep San Diegans safe. This new Firehawk helicopter is going to take our aerial firefighting capabilities to the next level.”

At the Mayor’s request, the City Council this week approved the $19.8 million purchase of the helicopter from Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company. This will increase the City’s aerial firefighting arsenal to three helicopters when it arrives next year.

The Firehawk’s military design helps it endure the enormous physical stresses required to drop 1,000 gallons of water multiple times a day on a fire line.

“The Firehawk configuration of the Black Hawk is the most capable multi-mission, firefighting helicopter available, with proven military grade capabilities,” said Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Fennessy. “Fires are spreading faster and getting larger. The need for aircraft to carry more water has become critical.”

Also approved was the construction of a new SDFD hangar at Montgomery Field. The 30,000-square-foot facility will include space for five heavy-lift helicopters, offices, maintenance and storage for 10,000 gallons of jet fuel. The hangar will be co-located with the department’s Air Operations Station. The cost for the hangar is $12 million.

The S-70i version of the Firehawk includes wide chord rotor blades for increased payload and maneuverability, enhanced engine power, a stronger airframe than previous models, a digital cockpit with flight management system for enhanced situation awareness, and an Integrated Vehicle Health Management System to monitor the aircraft’s operational health.

Among the improved safety features, the S-70i aircraft includes a terrain and obstacle avoidance system that alerts the air crew to the proximity of potential hazards on the ground.

The City expects to receive the new Firehawk by fall 2018.