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California Firefighting Agencies, Southern California Edison Team Up to Provide State-of-the-Art Firefighting Aircraft

Utility contributes nearly $18 million for air assets to protect Californians from dangerous wildfires

With funding from Southern California Edison, local firefighting agencies now have additional state-of-the-art aircraft to combat wildfires.

Firefighting agencies, including the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) and Ventura County Fire Department in partnership with SCE, are expanding their capabilities to combat California’s wildfire threat.

As outlined in its 2021 Wildfire Mitigation Plan Update, SCE is contributing nearly $18 million to lease three helicopters. This includes two Coulson-Unical CH-47 helitankers, the world’s largest fire-suppression helicopters, and a Sikorsky-61 helitanker. All three aircraft have unique water and fire-retardant-dropping capabilities and can fly day and night. In addition, a Sikorsky-76 command and control helicopter along with ground-based equipment to support rapid retardant refills and drops will be available to assist with wildfires.

Pending approvals from the appropriate boards of supervisors, the three firefighting agencies will take the lead in the daily operation, dispatch and management of the aircraft across SCE’s 50,000-square-mile service area.

“Following the historic 2020 fire season, it is an honor to work with our frontline fire agency partners to help save and protect lives,” said Kevin Payne, SCE president and CEO. “SCE remains committed to reducing the risk of wildfires and supporting the readiness and response efforts of our fire agencies.”

SCE and the OCFA united in 2019 and again last year in a similar partnership, which made a significant difference as the firefighting agency fought several large wildfires throughout the region. Last December alone, a very large Coulson helitanker, funded by SCE, made 101 water drops totaling 223,438 gallons of water.

“After a dry winter, Southern California once again faces a serious wildfire risk,” said Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen. “This regional partnership is adding helicopters and ground-based support equipment that will enhance our ability to respond to any fires that occur across a six-county area.”

“We appreciate every opportunity and partnership available that allows us to bolster our air operations fleet, so we may provide even more protection for the communities in our care, especially for those residents living in wildfire-prone areas,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby. “With the impending approval of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, we look forward to collaborating in this unified effort with our partner agencies to combat wildfires.”

“These three helitankers will be game changers and force multipliers in protecting people and property when a wildfire breaks out,” said Fire Chief Brian Fennessy of the Orange County Fire Authority. “We can’t thank Southern California Edison enough for providing even more critical aerial support than in past years for the height of fire season.”

This partnership is one element of SCE’s comprehensive approach to addressing the wildfire threat. Its wildfire mitigation efforts also include installation of insulated power lines and weather stations, as well as a broad-based vegetation management program.

From June 15 until the end of the year, the helitankers and command and control helicopter will be strategically stationed across SCE’s service area and made available to various jurisdictions through existing partnerships and coordination agreements between the agencies.

Additionally, the media will have an opportunity in June to view the Coulson-Unical CH-47 helitankers.

About Southern California Edison

An Edison International (NYSE: EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of approximately 15 million via 5 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.

About Orange County Fire Authority

The Orange County Fire Authority is a regional fire-rescue service agency that serves nearly 2 million residents in 23 cities and the unincorporated area of the county. The member jurisdictions include Aliso Viejo, Buena Park, Cypress, Dana Point, Garden Grove, Irvine, La Palma, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, Santa Ana, Stanton, San Juan Capistrano, Seal Beach, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, Yorba Linda and the County of Orange.

About Ventura County Fire Department

Composed of approximately 600 dedicated men and women, the Ventura County Fire Department is an all-hazard, full-service agency. We proudly provide fire protection, medical aid, rescue, hazardous materials response and a variety of other services to the public. We serve more than 480,000 people in Ventura County. Our response area covers 848 square miles and includes all unincorporated areas and the following cities: Ojai, Port Hueneme, Moorpark, Camarillo, Santa Paula, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks.

About Los Angeles County Fire Department

The Los Angeles County Fire Department (Fire Department) is responsible for protecting the lives and property of 4.1 million residents living in 1.25 million housing units in 59 cities and all unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County (County), along with the City of La Habra located in Orange County. The Fire Department’s service area includes suburban neighborhoods, city centers, commercial districts, sandy beaches, mountain ranges and more. There are 4,700 personnel working within the Fire Department’s emergency and business operations bureaus, including firefighters, dispatchers, lifeguards, nurses and administrative support.


Media Contact: Taelor Bakewell, (626) 302-2255


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