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San Diego's Nighttime Helicopters To Fly Countywide

The city of San Diego's fire and rescue helicopters are the only air resources in the region capable of flying at night, Dec. 16, 2014.
Susan Murphy
The city of San Diego's fire and rescue helicopters are the only air resources in the region capable of flying at night, Dec. 16, 2014.

San Diego's Nighttime Helicopters To Fly Countywide
The city of San Diego’s two nighttime flying helicopters are available to the entire county for firefighting and rescues under a new deal between the two governments.

San Diego city and county leaders announced a new agreement Tuesday on emergency preparedness.

The deal, effective Dec. 1 through June 30, 2016, makes the city of San Diego’s two nighttime flying helicopters available to the entire county for firefighting and rescues.

“When a wildfire comes, we have to be focused on results and saving lives, not jurisdictional boundaries drawn on a map,'' said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “That's why the city and county are embarking on a new level of cooperation to make sure our region is as prepared as possible for whatever comes our way.''

Faulconer said the city’s night flying helicopters are the only air resources in the region capable of flying at night. In exchange for the use of the helipcopters, the county has agreed to reimburse the city for its flight and staffing costs.

The county will reimburse the city at the rate of about $3,700 an hour for one helicopter and $5,000 an hour for the other.

The agreement will benefit the more than 2 million people who live outside of city boundaries.

San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar said the helicopters were used in May for 40 nighttime missions, maneuvering through steep canyons during the San Marcos Cocos fire.

Nighttime flying has made huge strides since the 2007 wildfires, but it remains complex, Mainar said.

"There are some very sound procedures that need to be followed to ensure that that airspace can be flown safely at night,” he said. “We have to have seen the terrain during the day. We have to go through a long checklist of things to get that authorization. But trust me, those are all needed to assure the safety of not only our crews but he public."

Mainar said the nighttime flights will always be operated by city crews, and one chopper will be staffed 24/7.

San Diego County has spent nearly $320 million on firefighting resources over the past decade.

Corrected: October 3, 2022 at 5:12 PM PDT
City News Service contributed to this report.
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