Super Scooper News Conference
LA County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby and County leaders gathered to speak about their three-month agreement to lease two Candian Super Scooper aircrafts and a heli-tanker to fight fires. Photo by Ashley Bailey/KPCC

The Los Angeles County Fire Department is leasing two Canadian super scoopers and a heli-tanker to bolster its firefighting resources through November.

On Tuesday morning, Antonovich joined fellow county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and fire chiefs on the tarmac of the Van Nuys Airport on Daily Drive to watch pilots demonstrate key firefighting aircraft that included: the CL-415 SuperScooper, Sikorsky S-70 Firehawk, Erickson Air-Crane Helitanker and Bell 412 helicopter.

L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby says the aircraft have already been put to use by several agencies working as a team to assess where best to use them.

Osby sighted two fires burning Monday, one in the Santa Clarita and Aqua Dulce area and another off Interstate 405 as an example of decisions he’s made in order to use the super scoopers to their full potential.  Only 24 hours earlier, the very same aircraft were dousing 500 acres of brush burning in Agua Dulce with aircraft-carried water, in one of the first wildfires of the county’s 2011 fire season.

“As soon as their fire began, we made an assessment and we were able to release the super scoopers from this fire that we had in Los Angeles County to fly down to Los Angeles to help them with their fire to keep it at a manageable size,” he said.

The county has allocated about $7 million to lease the super scoopers and heli-tanker. It has wiggle room in its budget to extend the lease past the fall if needed.

The super scoopers can dump about 2,000 gallons of water in 12 seconds.

“The Super Scoopers came on board Sept. 1, and they were immediately able to be utilized in the Santa Clarita Valley and put out that fire, save life and save property,” Los Angeles County Mayor Michael D. Antonovich said Tuesday.

“Had we had the use of the Super Scoopers at the Station Fire time, and had the federal government utilized them, we could have saved life and property.”

In August 2009, the Station Fire was allowed to rage for days because it occurred inside the exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service.  Strategic changes made to fire-fighting protocol now call for a united response involving all local fire-fighting agencies, and calls for a consolidation of all available resources.  Today, the same fire would be met with the full unified force of all local firefighting agencies, regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.

The Station Fire claimed the lives of two Los Angeles County firefighters, scorched almost 170,000 acres and destroyed more than 100 homes after it erupted Aug. 26, 2009. The blaze destroyed some structur02es in the Acton-Agua Dulce area but spared most of the SCV.

Antonovich, whose sprawling north county district takes in the Santa Clarita Valley, has been critical of the Forest Service’s policy on a number of issues such as deciding against water drops at night.

Failing to use Super Scoopers early in firefighting efforts is now unlikely to happen with revised strategy impacting federal land, county officials said Tuesday during a Fire Department “media day” at Van Nuys Airport.

“That was the federal government’s call. They did not want them.” Antonovich said of Super Scoopers and the Station Fire.

“Since that time, the Los Angeles County Fire Department is going to utilize all air support, regardless, when there is a fire in U.S. Forest property that impacts our citizens’ homes.”