In an effort to enhance the state’s firefighting capabilities and reduce reliance on contract aircraft, the state of Colorado this week signed an order with United Rotorcraft for a second Firehawk helicopter. Governor Jared Polis solidified this commitment by signing a bill on Friday, effectively allocating $26 million from the state budget towards the procurement of another aircraft.
The Firehawk stands out for its exceptional performance, boasting a top speed of approximately 160 mph. This remarkable agility allows it to traverse vast distances within Colorado swiftly, ensuring that it can promptly reach and address fire incidents. Equipped with an impressive capacity, the Firehawk can efficiently collect and release 1,000 gallons of water, providing a powerful tool in the battle against wildfire.
What sets the Firehawk apart is its versatility beyond firefighting duties. During periods when wildfires are dormant, this helicopter can be readily deployed for search and rescue missions, further expanding its utility and enhancing the state’s emergency response capabilities. By investing in this multipurpose aerial asset, Colorado not only bolsters its firefighting prowess but also strengthens its ability to safeguard lives during critical situations.
The acquisition of a second Firehawk helicopter signals Colorado’s commitment to combating wildfires with increased vigor and self-sufficiency. This will enable the state agency in charge of the aircraft, the Colorado Department of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) faster response times and enhanced effectiveness throughout the state. As the threat of wildfires continues to loom large, this strategic investment reinforces Colorado’s dedication to preserving its environment and ensuring the safety of its residents.
At present, Colorado has no state-owned assets capable of deploying water and retardant to combat wildfires until the state’s first Firehawk comes online shortly. Currently, the state relies on contracts with private aerial firefighting companies to respond to fires that arise, while providing air attack and surveillance duties with two state-owned PC-12 aircraft.
The imminent deployment of the first Firehawk helicopter is expected in the coming weeks, pending the completion of testing and final adjustments. This inaugural aircraft represents a significant milestone in Colorado’s efforts to bolster its firefighting capabilities. Looking ahead, the second Firehawk helicopter could be ready for service as early as next summer, further strengthening the state’s aerial firefighting fleet.