City of San Diego approves funding for new firefighting helicopter and hangar

February 15, 2024

The city of San Diego has announced a significant investment in its fire service, allocating $21 million towards enhancing its aerial firefighting capabilities.

This investment will fund the purchase of a new Subaru-Bell 412 EPX helicopter and the construction of a hangar to house the city’s expanded fleet of firefighting aircraft.

The move aims to bolster the efficiency of firefighting efforts in an area that ranks among the most fire-prone in the world.

San Diego has been operating with just two helicopters following the retirement of an older aircraft after 43 years of service.

With the addition of the Subaru-Bell 412 EPX, the city’s fleet will comprise three helicopters, aligning with the recommended fleet size for optimal firefighting capacity.

Enhancing aerial firefighting efficiency

The new Subaru-Bell 412 EPX helicopter represents a significant upgrade over the aircraft it replaces, offering a water-carrying capacity of over 1,400 liters.

This capacity exceeds that of the retired helicopter, providing San Diego’s fire service with a more potent tool in combating fires from the air.

The helicopter features a weight of 3,091 kg, a cruising speed of 228 kilometers per hour, and a range of 669 km with a 3.8-hour flight capability.

The addition of the Subaru-Bell 412 EPX to the fleet, alongside the Sikorsky S-70i Firehawk purchased in 2018 and a Bell 412 EP acquired in 2008, ensures the city is well-equipped to tackle wildfires more effectively.

The Firehawk, with its 3,785-liter capacity, and the Bell 412 EP complement the capabilities of the new helicopter, creating a robust aerial firefighting team.

Infrastructure development at Montgomery-Gibbs Airport

The investment also covers the construction of a new hangar at San Diego’s Montgomery-Gibbs Airport.

This 3,000-square-foot facility, costing over $20 million, has received all necessary authorizations and will accommodate the city’s three aircraft.

The hangar’s development is a crucial step in supporting the operational readiness and maintenance of the firefighting fleet, ensuring that the aircraft are sheltered and readily available for deployment.

FSJA Comment

The City of San Diego‘s $21 million investment in its fire service is a strategic move to enhance its aerial firefighting capabilities, addressing the critical need for efficient wildfire combat in one of the most susceptible regions to fire hazards.

By expanding its helicopter fleet and constructing a new hangar, San Diego is positioning itself to respond more effectively to wildfires, which have become increasingly frequent and severe due to climate change.

As urban areas continue to grapple with the challenges posed by climate change, investments like these become imperative in safeguarding communities and natural landscapes.

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