L.A. City Council Questions City Fire Helicopter Maintenance After Two Helicopters Unable to Respond to Fires

LAFD Bell 412. Photo by Alan Radecki.

In a recent council meeting, the Los Angeles City Council questioned why Los Angeles City Fire AW139’s were unable to respond to  multiple simultaneous fires and questioned why maintenance caused two of the departments helicopters to be unavailable during recent fires that threatened homes. 

As two fires began in Los Angeles on May 28th, 2017 in the city of Los Angeles, aerial firefighters were stretched to the limit as the departments fleet of six helicopters was reduced due to maintenance issues. Thankfully for the city, mutual aid was provided by the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Sikorsky S-70 Firehawk helicopters who provided additional capability for the two brush fires burning twenty miles apart in Sylmar and Brentwood.

Members of the Los Angeles City Council the met Tuesday, said the reduced number of helicopters may have hampered the response to the fires, one of which burned fifty-five acres in Brentwood as city helicopters struggled to cover both fires at the same time.

The fires, beginning with a brush fire in Sylmar at the edge of Angeles National Forest that burned over eight acres starting at approximately 11:30am PST. That fire was closely followed by the second, that started an hour and a half later in Mandeville Canyon near Brentwood. Homes in the area were spared as ground crews, along with participation from county helicopter assets kept both blazes under control, although the city departments ability to fight both fires was an issue.

An AW139 sits atop LAPD's Hooper Heliport, still recognized today as the busiest heliport in the world. Photo by Ryan Mason
An AW139 sits atop LAPD’s Hooper Heliport, still recognized today as the busiest heliport in the world. Photo by Ryan Mason

Councillors from the Los Angeles City Council have demanded answers from the city’s general services department that is responsible for maintenance of both the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) A-Star fleet and the city’s fleet of Leonardo AW139’s and Bell 412 helicopters, giving administrators a two week deadline to outline why the backlog of maintenance occurred and to also detail any backlogs that exist regarding the fleets of the LAPD and Department of Water and Power for comparison.

Los Angeles City Fire is scheduled to receive another Aw139 in the coming months as the department cycles out the remainder of Bell 412 helicopters operated by the fire department for the much larger AW139 that is fitted with a belly tank for firefighting duties. the LAFD recently donated one of the departments Bell 412 helicopters to the LAPD to use for speacialty training and deployment that will likely fill the gap left when the department pulled their last remaining UH-1H from service several years ago.

The general services department released a statement late last week reaffirming their commitment to ensuring that all LAFD helicopters were returned to service as quickly as possible and that all backlogs would also be cleared as soon as they could be completed.

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Ryan Mason, Publisher & Editor in Chief

Ryan Mason is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of Heliweb Magazine. Ryan has worked in aviation media for the last nine years as a photographer and journalist, providing written and photographic content for multiple international aviation publications covering both fixed wing and helicopters. Ryan has also written for law enforcement publications on tactics, equipment and airborne law enforcement, drawing on his years of experience as a police officer in the Midwest United States. You can reach Ryan at ryan@heliweb.com

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