Two new Firehawk helicopters beef up firefighting arsenal in Ventura County

    Ventura County’s aerial firefighting capabilities got a huge boost with the recent arrival of two new helicopters.

    “We are now tripling our water dropping capabilities with the addition of these two Firehawk helicopters,” said Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen during a news event at the Camarillo Airport Thursday morning. The gleaming blue-and-yellow aircraft served as a backdrop, each with its number painted in blue on the tail: 4 and 5.

    The aviation unit is a partnership between the fire agency and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, with the helicopter fleet providing police, fire and search-and-rescue support. Personnel from both departments were on hand Thursday for the formal unveiling and demonstration flight.

    The new helicopters were formerly Sikorsky Black Hawk military aircraft used by the Army National Guard. They were built around 2006 and have low flight hours, officials said.

    A Colorado company, United Rotorcraft, converted the twin-engine machines to Firehawks now fitted with state-of-the-art avionics, high-definition cameras, thermal cameras that detect hot spots, search lights and attached water tanks with retractable snorkels, among other upgrades.

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