The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted last Tuesday unanimously to share the cost of a refitted UH-60 lease with the county utility provider San Diego Gas & Electric.

The new lease will add capability to the county’s firefighting efforts that include an existing UH-60 firefighting helicopter and an EC-145 owned by SDG&E used for powerline patrol and spotting duties as needed, and the lease of an Erickson Air Crane also used each firefighting season.

The UH-60 lease and active participation of the new aircraft will however take some time, with a projected enter into service date of June 2020 where it will be placed for effective service in the northern part of San Diego County.

The terms of the public/private agreement that is becoming more prevalent in Southern California in recent times, details that San Diego Gas and Electric will incur operational costs for the initial two hours of any operational flight time, then the County will cover the second two hours, should the flight take extended time.

During active firefighting missions, the County could pay up to $150,000 for firefighting efforts, depending on any reimbursements offered by the State of California or federal government.

San Diego County can also call on a myriad of mutual assistance during firefighting efforts that include mutual aid from CalFire fixed wing and rotary assets, Sheriff and Police Aircraft equipped with bambi buckets, along with assistance from over 20 military airborne assets that can be configured for firefighting when needed.