An Orange County Fire Authority captain Sunday said the department is looking forward to gaining access to helicopters capable of unloading 3,000 gallons of water or flame retardant for the upcoming wildfire season this summer.

The usage of Boeing Chinook Helitankers is being financed with nearly $18 million in Southern California Edison funding for the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) program, deploying the world’s largest helicopters that can fly not only during the day but also for night-time operations, officials said.

The QRF program officially launches Tuesday.

“That’s a lot of firefighting power, if you will, when you can drop 3,000 gallons of water onto a brush fire. It’s an important tool,” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Thanh Nguyen told City News Service. “We’re grateful that we will be able to use it. It’s impressive.”

Millions of residents in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties are among the most vulnerable living within wildfire-prone areas, fire experts said. Extreme drought conditions and dry vegetation, along with predictions of a dire wildfire season ahead, led to the formation of the QRF program.

“Generally, when we get a wildfire, it’s accompanied with strong winds,” Nguyen said. “(Helicopter) pilots have a lot to contend with.”

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