(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / August 31, 2009)
Smoke from the Station fire over the Angeles National Forest as seen from a helicopter.
A non scientific survey of watching fires raging on the evening news tells me that for the most part, Southern California relies primarily on helicopters for aerial firefighting. Planes can typically carry much larger loads of water and retardant, though they might be less maneuverable and precise as helicopters. Still shouldn't we have more fixed wing aircraft to fight the fires we know are coming year in and year out? We even go so far as to lease 2 highly effective "Super Scooper" planes from Canada every fall.
The SGV Tribune asks the question:
What if California had its own water-scooping giant airplanes and kept them year-round? Wouldn't it make a tremendous difference in the ability to knock down a wildfire quickly? Wouldn't they seriously cut down on the loss of life and property?I think it's time for our elected officials to answer this question. Is there a preference for purchasing helicopters over fixed wing aircraft? Is this preference justified given the vastly greater capabilities of fixed wing aircraft?