“It’s a war”: California turns to new, high-tech helicopters to battle wildfires — 60 Minutes

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Last summer, California suffered one of the most savage fire years in its history. Drought and scorching temperatures turbocharged fires that were more extreme than ever. Two of the biggest fires in state history laid siege to more than a million acres in Northern California, burning dangerously close to Lake Tahoe. Firefighters didn’t have a day off for months. Fire chiefs warned there weren’t enough aircraft to go around. “It’s a war,” one told us. So fire chiefs from Southern California stole a page from the military: taking the fight to the night. As we first reported last fall, a fleet of high-tech helicopters fought wildfires 24/7. And for the first time, the giant Chinook – you’ve seen them in other war zones –led the night assault. It was an $18 million pilot program – that the fire chiefs hope will be a game-changer.

The U.S. Forest Service was already short-staffed when the Caldor Fire exploded last August, churning…

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