Reporting Stacey Butler
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — When the sun sets on the next Southland wildfire, firefighters will not be forced to just stand by and watch it burn thanks to some new night-vision technology.
The U.S. Forest Service has made a grim prediction that a dryer than normal winter will spark a busy fire season.
But now the Orange County Fire Authority is fighting fire with night-vision goggles.
Nearly a dozen fire agencies from around the state recently gathered in Irvine to train to fly water dropping helicopters when it matters the most — in the dark.
“I’ve been on the ground where you’re making good progress, the helicopter is providing excellent support and you’re watching the sun go down, and you realized that pretty soon it’s going to be leaving,” said Chief Michael Boyle of the Orange County Fire Authority.
But that is about to change.
“At the right time and right place, a helicopter, both day and night can have a dramatic, positive outcome on the fire,” Boyle said.
While Los Angeles City and County Fire have conducted night drops in certain situations for years, this fire season the OCFA is making it their standard practice.
“They have ability to get out in front of fast-moving wildfire. They have the ability to place lines in water drops in-between the fire and structures sometimes to protect those structures better and to protect lives. They are a valuable tool in a wild-land fire fight,” Boyle said.
The night vision goggles help the firefighter to see where the hottest spots are in the fire, so he knows exactly where to do the water drops.
It is exactly what firefighters need to make headway on wild-land fires that are known to get knocked-down by day and make a run at night.
We checked with other area departments as well. Right now Riverside County does not run night time fire choppers. Ventura County does not either, although the county said that may be changing in the near future.