On October 27, 2022, after nearly three years of planning and assessment, the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) Board of Directors approved the purchase of two new Sikorsky S70 FIREHAWK helicopters. The new aircraft will replace the two OCFA 1966 UH-1H “Super Hueys” that were grounded in 2020 due to significantly increased cost of operating these legacy aircraft.
FIREHAWKS have become the industry standard across the Southern California fire service, and with this approval, the OCFA joins its surrounding peer agencies — Santa Barbara Fire, Ventura County Fire, LA County Fire, San Diego Fire, and CAL FIRE — that already have FIREHAWK helicopters in their respective fleets.
The new OCFA aircraft will join OCFA’s two Bell 412EP helicopters, providing the agency with four operational helicopters for the first time since 2020 and empowering OCFA Air Operations to perform day/night aerial fire suppression, remote rescues, and other all-hazard missions at a far safer and capable level. True force multipliers in battling wildfire, the FIREHAWKS’ water-dropping capabilities eclipse that of the Bell412s by 256% per tank-load (350 gallons vs. 1,000 gallons).
However, before the new aircraft are delivered to the OCFA in fall of 2023, they must first be transformed from Blackhawk to FIREHAWK helicopters by United Rotorcraft, an industry leader in the design and manufacture of mission critical equipment. This transformation — from digital cockpit upgrades for ease of navigation in firefights to a reconfigurable cabin that accommodates up to 12 firefighting crew members and their equipment during emergency operations — will be chronicled on all OCFA social media platforms over the next year. You can monitor the progress by following us on social media @OCFireAuthority and searching the hashtag #OCFAFIREHAWKS.
Photo by Kaileen Hanningan/@fireshadow_images