L.A. Council Demands Answers on Helicopter Shortage

Shortage noticed as crews battled two wildfires

A helicopter makes a water drop on a hillside after a wildfire broke out in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles, Sunday, May 28, 2017. A dark plume of smoke was visible for miles as the fire consumed moderate to thick brush near Mandeville Canyon Road, a dead end road that snakes up a deep canyon lined by expensive view homes. A few residents voluntarily left but no homes were damaged. (AP Photo/Brian Melley)

 

ELIZABETH CHOU, The Daily News of Los Angeles

Los Angeles city firefighters were short at least two helicopters Sunday and had to scramble to respond to a pair of brush fires that flared up at almost the same time and at least 20 miles apart, city officials said Tuesday.

Dramatic footage of Los Angeles Fire Department helicopters pouring water over the midday fires in Sylmar and Brentwood dominated local social media posts and TV news Sunday. Even so, about half the Fire Department’s fleet of six helicopters were out of commission due to a maintenance backlog.

Of the four water-dropping helicopters in the department’s fleet, only two were operational Sunday, while the others are “receiving maintenance and due back soon,” LAFD spokesman Jeremy Oberstein said.

Los Angeles City Council members said Tuesday the reduced number of helicopters may have hampered the response to the fires, one of which burned 55 acres in Brentwood’s Mandeville Canyon area.

Because of the shortage of available helicopters, the Fire Department couldn’t tackle both fires “simultaneously,” City Council members wrote in a motion introduced Tuesday.

Firefighters first responded about 11:30 a.m. Sunday to a brush fire in the hillsides above Lake View Terrace and Sylmar that burned about eight acres, mostly in the Angeles National Forest. About 90 minutes later, they were called to a brush fire in Mandeville Canyon that was threatening homes.

While firefighters kept the fires from reaching any homes%