AMADOR COUNTY (CBS13) — Game-changing technology is now on the front lines of the Caldor Fire for the first time ever in Northern California, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Helicopters that can fly at night and drop water just arrived from Ventura, L.A., and Orange counties. It’s a quick response force that includes two CH47 helicopters and one S61 helicopter.READ MORE: Proposed Campground Expansion At Auburn State Recreation Area Draws Concern Over Wildfire Risk
Right now the Amador County Airport in Jackson is the home base for refueling. Pilots said these helicopters can make it over to the Caldor Fire within just minutes, ready to dump thousands of gallons of water on the flames. They cannot fly if wind speeds are above 40 miles per hour.
“They can work with the crews to secure the perimeter of the fire or work around structures when typically there’s no aircraft support,” said Kyle Tolosano, the U.S., Forest Service Region 5 aviation safety manager.
The pilots have night-vision goggles and advanced computer tracking systems. One of the helicopters is equipped with a specialized camera that creates high-definition images of the fire.
“Better information, better decisions,” said Craig Lapsley, Executive Director of the Coulson Program.READ MORE: Fire Burning In Highway 160 Overpass Reveals Person Living Inside
Coulson is the company that maintains and operates these helicopters. County fire departments contract with them.
“The last part of the camera is the thermal camera that shows exactly where the heat is. It takes away the smoke and shows exactly where the heat is so we can see where the fire actually is,” Lapsley said.
This means better protection for worried families. One of the helicopters, a chinook that used to belong to the U.S. Army, can hold up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant.
“They’re working with the ground crews and working closely to establish perimeter control around the fire — any hotspots or working around critical areas where the homes are threatened,” Tolosano said.MORE NEWS: Rio Linda Crash Leaves 1 Dead, 2 Injured
Helicopters are breaking barriers — no longer bound by daylight.