County, fire officials welcome Super Scoopers for 2020 fire season

A Super Scooper makes a drop on a nine acre brushfire at the end of Dockweiler Derive in Newhall on Wednesday, November 6, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal
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More acres have burned so far this year in California than in all of 2019, marking 2020 as what officials have called a “historic” fire season. To help in the firefighting efforts locally, L.A. County fire personnel announced Wednesday two major additions in their arsenal against wildfires. 

“We can anticipate any fires that arise will be intense, so we need top-of-the-line resources, which is what we have here today,” said county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who announced with L.A. County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby the arrival of two CL-415 Super Scoopers — aircraft capable of filling up a capacity of 1,600 gallons in only 12 seconds for operations of up to four hours. 

L.A. County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby annonunces the arrival of the Super Scoopers for the 2020 fire season at the Van Nuys Airport on Sept. 2, 2020. Screenshot of news conference

The county’s set of Super Scoopers on loan from Quebec, Canada, arrived at Van Nuys Airport on Sunday, where they will be based through the fire season, as the airport is considered “the only place where we rent out a big enough hangar for them,” according to Austin Bennett, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, in a previous interview. 

Tuesday kicked off their first day in service and marked the 27th year the Fire Department has leased the pair of Super Scoopers from Quebec to assist in firefighting efforts countywide, particularly in the rural areas of North L.A. County, including the Santa Clarita Valley. In fact, a different set of Super Scoopers was recently spotted in the valley, assisting in suppressing the 31,000-acre Lake Fire that is now 90% contained. 

The lease runs for just more than $3 million a year, with a budget that allows for up to $4 million “if the fire season goes beyond December,” said Osby. 

“Every year we keep having larger and larger wildfires,” he said, adding that as long as this activity continues, the Fire Department will continue to lease the Super Scoopers. “If there’s some significant change in the climate, we will reassess that then, but for the foreseeable future, I think based on my professional expertise and our data that we need both aircraft and also to protect our communities.” 

The Super Scoopers’ arrival comes after of the Lake Fire that first erupted in mid-August, which at that point was among more than 600 fires statewide. 

Last year, the state fought 4,292 fires that burned about 56,000 acres, while 2020 has, so far, seen 1.4 million acres burned due to 7,002 fires. 

“We’ve burned 1.2 million acres since just a week or so ago. Again, that’s 1.4 million acres to date and that’s about 200,000 acres that predated these 13-plus-thousand lighting strikes that we have experienced,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a previous statement. 

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