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Officials Reconsidering Policy that Bans Aerial Firefighting at Night


Aired 4/19/09

Officials at the California agency that coordinates fire projection in San Diego's back country are reconsidering their long standing policy that bans aerial fire fighting at night.  KPBS reporter Alison St John has more.

Mike Padilla, chief of aviation for Cal Fire, says the agency is discussing the policy that grounds firefighting aircraft after it gets dark.

Padilla himself has considerable experience with night vision goggles and says they make an  big difference. However he says safety concerns are still high when fighting fires at night from the air. He says the military has had a number of accidents and the vast majority of their fatalities  have been at night, flying with night vision goggles
Padilla: So we are cautious in moving forward with them. 
Padilla says Cal Fires' helicopters are not equipped to be flown using night vision goggles. The state budget is too tight to consider getting new helicopters but retrofitting is a possibility.

Alison St John, KPBS news

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