LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) —  The Los Angeles City Fire Department has a new $2 million blaze-fighting chopper in its arsenal.

The $2 million is for a four-month lease on a Erickson Air Crane.

Reporter Melissa McCarty got a sneak peak of the new aircraft in a story only seen on CBS2 and KCAL9.

She spoke to Frank Swisher, an LAFD pilot, who said, “By far we have best equipment.”

Now even better as the Erickson takes center state.

Explains Swisher, “It’s a challenge. It’s fun, exciting. There is this great sense of accomplishment. There is a certain skill level, hand eye coordination, judging what fire you’re trying to drop water on.”

Swisher is well-known for his accurate water and retardant drops over major fires. But he admits it’s not easy. “It’s combining judging the height, speed and wind conditions.”

The LAFD’s Erickson is the only one in the country with a cannon hose. It is used to fight fires in high-rise buildings.

The chopper has a pawn hose used to suck fresh water from lakes and reservoirs. The sea snorkel hose is used for salt water… scooping up to 2,000 gallons of water from the ocean.

LAFD Pilot Scott Bowman is glad water is never far in the LA area. “We have numerous water sources here all along the basin which is big plus,” Bowman says.

Pilots are also equipped with night-vision goggles so they can see better after dark.

High winds are also not a factor. Like the Sylmar fire back in 2008. “We train for that,” says Bowman.

The Erickson chopper joins three other aircraft. Pilots are on call 24-7.

For reinforcement, another Erickson joins LA County Fire next week.


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