SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — In what has been billed as a game-changer for battling wildfires, Cal Fire has obtained helicopters with the ability to perform operations at night.
The agency has acquired 12 new Sikorsky S70i Firehawk helicopters capable of performing nighttime airdrops. Night operations are considered too dangerous for the helicopter model Cal Fire currently uses.
“What it boiled down to was safety. And this aircraft has two engines on it compared an aircraft that has one engine, so it has a secondary fail-safe, so that’s why it’s safer to fly at night,” said Cal Fire Deputy Director Mike Mohler. “But again, still a dangerous operation.”
One big challenge for the pilots will be learning how to fly while wearing night vision goggles. Cal Fire hopes to start using the new helicopters sometime next year.