news and events » news

News Header

News Item

return to News

Military helicopters to battle next wildfire in SD

by Webmaster |

EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) - The next time a major wildfire sweeps through San Diego County, military pilots might be able to help.
Officials hope to have San Diego-based Marine or Navy helicopter pilots certified to fight California forest fires this summer, said Mike Padilla, an aviation management chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Local representatives of the Navy, Marines, CDF and the California Office of Emergency Services met Monday in El Cajon in the hopes of preventing a repeat of October's deadly Cedar Fire that killed 16 people and destroyed more than 2,400 homes in San Diego County.

"If we get another Cedar Fire, we want to be able to help," said Navy Cmdr. Jim Ellinger, leader of a local Navy helicopter squadron based at Coronado. "Operationally, I don't see any roadblocks at all."

Ellinger's squadron was left grounded during the Cedar Fire, because his pilots weren't certified by the CDF to fight fires. The Navy helicopter squadron normally trains warship and submarine crews, rescues downed pilots and fights fires on San Clemente Island.

On Oct. 26, the first day of the fire, Ellinger said he redirected two helicopters to Ramona to help, but they were never used.

"I think anybody who had water and had a bucket could have assisted," he said.