BEN BROWN, The Daily Journal, July 9, 2008
Among the 18 aircraft currently being used to fight fires in Mendocino County are two Blackhawk helicopters on loan from the military.
Cal Fire spokeswoman Tracy Boudreaux said the two helicopters have been outfitted with buckets and are being used like any other helitack helicopter for water drops and spotting on the 37 fires still burning in the county.
Boudreaux said each helicopter flies with a Cal Fire captain on board for operations and safety.
The two helicopters have been spray painted fluorescent pink on the body and rotors and had operations numbers painted on their tails. Boudreaux said the paint is for visibility.
“Normally they need to be invisible, but for this mission they need to be highly visible,” she said.
The Blackhawks are among 15 helicopters fighting fires throughout the county. Boudreaux said helicopters and other aircraft are important to wildland fire fighting because they can give firefighters a better idea of where the fire is and how it is moving as well as making it possible to deliver water and fire retardant to places too rough for firefighters to reach.
“We need all the helicopters we can get,” she said.
Each helicopter is only allowed to fly eight hours a day, and Boudreaux said some need to be held in reserve in case a fire jumps a containment line and starts heading toward homes.
Aircraft have been performing a variety of jobs since the Mendocino Lightning Complex Fire began June 20, including dropping water and retardant, spotting and mapping fire perimeters.