Contra Costa County introduces new high-flying tool to fight wildfires

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CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — Just in time for what is traditionally the height of the fire season, one East Bay fire department has introduced a new high-flying tool to fight wildfires.

Earlier this month, Con Air 1 made its first water drop in Contra Costa County.

Days later — the helicopter was credited with stopping the forward progress of a wildfire that threatened the towns of Moraga and Danville.

“This program is actually the first of its kind in the nation, by being able to provide critical care transport, fire suppression and also hoist-rescue operations,” Joseph Drago said.

Reach air medical services and the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District have been training together with two choppers this past year.

Con Air 2 has been in service since September — responding to medical calls.

Last month, an enhanced helicopter, dubbed Con Air 1 — was certified to fight fires.

“Now, we’re capable of aerial fire fighting in the local area and as a state resource, when needed,” Battalion Chief Kevin Platt said.

The fire protection district shared a closer look of Con Air 1 Friday. It will be stationed with its predecessor at the Reach Air Base at Buchanan Field Airport in Concord.

When dispatched to fires, it will be staffed with a reach pilot, nurse and a fire protection district captain-paramedic.

“It’s a type three helicopter. It can carry from 140 to 180 gallons of water, depending on atmospheric conditions, which is excellent for the fuel models we have here in our county,” Fire Captain Matthew Depolo said.

A vital resource for firefighters.

In August, they were left for days without air support while fighting the Deer Zone Fire because the state had to divert it’s aircrafts to more deadly and destructive incidents making up the SCU Lightning Complex fires.

“And eventually, we’ll also be doing hoisting of fire fighters and victims with this aircraft,” Pilot Chris Beasley said.

“Keep the small fires small while they’re small, and this resource behind me here is going to help us with that immeasurably,” Fire spokesperson Steve Hill said.

Providing quick responses to potentially inaccessible areas within the county and beyond.

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