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In a first for Northern California, nighttime aerial drops were used to combat Caldor Fire

Helicopters from Southern California were able to meet everything on Cal Fire’s go list to make sure pilots could safely operate in the dark of night.

EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. — Along Highway 50, east of Kyburz, is the closest that a northern spot fire has been to the roadway since it jumped the highway Saturday night.

The highway has flames closing in on both sides with the spot fire to the north and the main fire to the south. Homes in the area are under severe threat, and strike teams are at the ready to stomp out any embers that might cross over.

Cal Fire said it is working to dispatch four contracted helicopters capable of nighttime operations to drop water and/or retardant in the area Monday night. 

RELATED: Over 400 homes have been destroyed so far by Caldor Fire | Evacuations, maps and updates

Sunday night was a historic night for fire fighting in Northern California. It was the first time nighttime drops were achieved in this part of the state. Type 1 helicopters from Southern California were able to meet and check off everything on Cal Fire’s go list to make sure pilots could safely operate in the dark of night near Grizzly Flats.

“Looking through night vision googles decreases your point of view from 360 to a small narrow field of vision. There are very inherent risks of flying... You put on nighttime operations -- there are numerous more dangers associated with night time operations,” said David Clark, spokesperson for Cal Fire.

Officials said it’s difficult to meet all the safety requirements. That includes if lives, structures or critical infrastructure threatened. If suppression costs will be significantly lowered and if weather permits, there are plans in the works to get those helicopters in action again. It’s a minute-to-minute operation depending on the smoke and weather conditions.

The new helicopters are also a glimpse into the new technology coming to Cal Fire. It is in the process of implementing a new fleet of Firehawk helicopters capable of flying at night.

RELATED: This Lego version of Cal Fire's Firehawk helicopter could become a real thing


Caldor Fire: Evening update | August 23rd, 2021

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