Skycrane Added to Air Assets Available Countywide to Battle Fires

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

HEMET (CNS) – A new addition to the airborne firefighting fleet will be arriving just in time for Wildfire Season in Riverside County, stationed at Hemet-Ryan Airport, officials announced Thursday.

A Sikorsky S-64 helicopter, better known as a “Skycrane” for its L- shape configuration and lack of an integral cargo bay, will be added to the fleet of UH-1 choppers and S-2 Tracker twin-engine airplanes traditionally based at Hemet-Ryan by Cal Fire.

The Skycrane, which is expected to be situated at the airfield by next week, is owned and operated by a private company that contracts with the state under an “exclusive use” agreement, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

“(It) has a tank mounted to the belly of the helicopter that can deliver more than 2,000 gallons of water per drop,” the agency said.

Battalion Chief Dave Rodriguez, who oversees Cal Fire air operations out of Hemet-Ryan, said that the Skycrane will help ensure the department achieves “its goal of keeping 95% of fires contained at 10 acres or less.”

“In addition to our air base’s aerial firefighting fleet, the S-64 will be beneficial in slowing the spread of dangerous wildland fires and keeping Riverside County residents, visitors and our firefighters safe,” he said.

The aircraft will be available for deployment over a 90-day period, according to officials.

The S-64s have been utilized in civilian and military operations for decades.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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