Air support en route for firefighters

GLENDALE — As the summer heat leads to increased fire danger, fire officials are anxiously awaiting the arrival of two Canadian aircraft, expected to touch down in September.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich renewed a five-year contract with the Quebec government to lease two CL-415 "Super Scoopers" during Los Angeles County's fire season, officials said. The turboprops are expected to reach Los Angeles County on Sept. 1 and will remain until Nov. 31, officials said.

The aircraft, which can be airborne in five minutes and fly for three hours without refueling, has been used countywide to battle stubborn blazes in rough terrain.

"While they are vital, they are a part of an arsenal of water-dropping aircraft that the county utilizes as well as the state and the federal government," Antonovich's spokesman Tony Bell said.

The Super Scoopers will supplement existing fire-fighting aircraft, he said, including Heli-Tanks, Sikorsky S-70 Firehawks, Bells and Sky Cranes.

The aircraft can carry up to 1,620 gallons of water, and fill up from any lake in about 12 seconds, officials said. Fire-resistant foam can also be added to the turboprop's water load, making it three times more effective. Upon arrival, they will be stored in a hangar in Van Nuys.

Having the massive aircraft available at a moment's notice is incredibly useful, said Mike Layhee, a captain with Los Angeles County Fire Department Air Operations.

The aircraft's scheduled arrival, Bell said, is just in time for the prime fire season.

During last year's fire season, the SuperScoopers arrived a little more than a week after the Station Fire started in the Angeles National Forest.

The blaze was the largest in Los Angeles County history and the 10th largest in the state since 1933.

The fire burned more than 160,000 acres, injured 22 and destroyed 80 homes. Two county firefighters died when their truck crashed within the fire zone.

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