Orange County Fire Authority gets two new state-of-the-art helicopters

A Sikorsky S70M Firehawk helicopter.
(Orange County Fire Authority)

In an effort to upgrade its firefighting abilities, the Orange County Fire Authority will replace two 55-year-old helicopters with a new pair of state-of-the-art choppers, the department said Thursday.

The OCFA has been fighting flames with just two helicopters since 2020, when it had to ground its two 1966 UH-1H “Super Hueys” due to the skyrocketing costs of operating the aging aircraft, the authority said.

But Thursday the authority announced it had approved the replacement of the “Super Hueys” with two brand new Sikorsky S70M Firehawks.


“The two new Sikorsky S70M FIREHAWKS that will replace the 55-year-old Hueys are already a staple in the fire service as all of our surrounding peer agencies — from Santa [Barbara] and Ventura to LA and San Diego — have had these state-of-the-art, multi-mission helicopters in their respective fleets for years,” the authority said in a tweet.

The authority has two operational Bell 412EP helicopters currently in use.

The choppers will help the OCFA “perform day/night aerial fire suppression, remote rescues, and other all-hazard missions at a far safer and capable level.”

The new helicopters — which can carry 1,000 gallons of water each — greatly increase the authority’s ability to combat fires from above, authority officials said.

Before the helicopters go into use next fall, they have to be converted from Black Hawks, the standard military helicopter, to Firehawks, which are for fire suppression and rescue only.

The addition of the helicopters comes just weeks after the authority announced it received $17 million in state funds to build a new facility to house its recently expanded hand crew, which works to clear brush and construct barriers in the way of fires.