Tag Archives: fire fighting

CITY OF RIVERSIDE AUCTIONS OFF ONLY HELICOPTER CAPABLE OF FIGHTING FIRES

By Mary Shelton
I recently wrote a post about the Sunset Ranch fire that had burned quite a bit of acreage on our ridge nearly impacting the condos on one side of the street. One was burned as shown in the photo below, another had smoke damage but we’d gotten off very lucky because of low winds and a “green belt” on the top of the ridge close to the homes. However, embers have a way of blowing quite a distance and this condo burned b/c of an ember shot from over 100 yards away most likely. The fire burned about 40 acres before being put out. It endangered homes on my street, and two neighboring streets, Sunset Ranch Drive and Royale Dr.
But what really saved our homes was the quick response of both Riverside’s fire department (five alarm fire) and the RPD, most notably the department’s aviation division. The helicopter photographed below is a Bell Helicopter, the oldest in the fleet which was still working well and was the only helicopter supplied with the capability to drop water on a fire. The terrain is so steep and the topography makes it difficult for fire crews to fight any brush fire on foot. Arlington was closed in both directions to serve as a means to use the helicopter.
The helicopter is piloted by an RPD officer trained and experienced in operating it and an “observer” is assigned to it. This helicopter has literally saved homes in at least four brush fires hitting Riverside in the past several years. I had heard elected officials praise the abilities of the helicopter and those who man it at protecting homes and other structures and lives as well from brush fires. It seemed to be a permanent fixture of fire fighting in a city chock filled with dry river beds and arroyos and hillsides made of tinder. Canyon Crest alone has 26 arroyos.
Imagine my shock when I discovered that this valuable fire fighting tool no longer exists to save lives and homes in our city. This helicopter was hauled off to the Pomona Fairgrounds where it was sold at auction for $200,000 in what was described as a “done deal” and done mostly quietly, mostly behind closed doors and carried out very, very quickly. The neighborhoods whose homes and possibly lives were saved by this helicopter were never notified about it. If I’d known, I would have had something to say about it and so would have everyone else in my HOA and neighborhood. But we weren’t given the chance, we were silenced by the very people who we elect to represent us.
The only people who gave a damn about not putting this helicopter up for auction were the members of our Aviation Unit who put up a fight to protect the residents of this city who live in areas prone to brush fires. I think those who stood up for us need to be applauded for that, not told to basically shut up and go away, that there’s nothing to fight for because the decision had been made. That’s no way to treat your employees b/c between our elected officials and the Aviation Unit, their knowledge and expertise on these issues carry a hell of a lot more weight.
Now we in these risky areas are left to be told, well I guess California Department of Forestry needs to take over the fire fighting. But did you know that CDF often called the RPD to help it fight fires? So if CDF is out using its resources to fight fires and needs the RPD helicopter to drop water, what then? The only alternative was to take one of the remaining helicopters and equip it with a water bucket which costs money
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I find this very, very upsetting that my city government would sell the safety and lives of residents to do something like this in the stealth of darkness without getting ANY input from constituents and residents who have homes now b/c of these helicopters and those who fly them. I have yet to find a CC meeting where the elected officials voted to sell the helicopter so was it another backroom deal?
If one single home burns or one life is lost because of what our government did in this case that could have been saved by this helicopter, that home…or that life will be on the City Council and Mayor of the City of Riverside. God Bless your Souls for that $200,000 you gained, I believe that’s what is called “blood money”.