New $24 million helicopter brings military technology to California firefighting

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BOGGS MOUNTAIN — With the sound of its twin, 2,000-horsepower turbine engines remarkably muffled, the sleek red and white firefighting helicopter lifted gracefully into an azure sky Thursday morning from a ridgetop base in Lake County.

The Cal Fire Hawk, one of a dozen purchased by the state for $288 million, made its debut this week at the helitack base here amid a pine forest in the Mayacamas Mountains near the rural community of Cobb.

Copter 104 — capable of flying up 160 mph and carrying 1,000 gallons of water in a steel tank affixed to its belly — can fly to Santa Rosa in 10 to 12 minutes and lay a 300-yard trail of water on a fire from 100 feet above ground or tree level on arrival.

“It’s the latest and greatest,” said Michael Schanley, one of the two pilots assigned to the Boggs Mountain base. “This is frontline Army aviation.”

The $24 million helicopter’s greatest asset is suitability for nighttime firefighting in an…

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