‘Superscoopers’ Celebrate Los Angeles Legacy

Twenty years ago this November, firestorms in Malibu led the Los Angeles County Fire Department to bolster its wildland firefighting aircraft with the addition of two amphibious “Superscoopers” during the height of the Southern California fire season.  They are back again for their 20th season which promises to be the worst in 100 years.  

The Old Topanga Fire in Malibu, first sparked along a stretch of Old Topanga Canyon Road and driven by Santa Ana “Devil” winds, burned through 16, 516 acres of this pristine Pacific Coast community for 10 days from November 2-11, 1993, killing three people, injuring 21 others, burning 388 structures, and causing over $500 million in damage.  The fire blasted through six linear miles of brush and structures in the first hour hours, with flame lengths of 200 feet.

Despite the Department’s full mobilization of brush fire resources the day before the fire’s start and the response of over 7,000 firefighters from 12 states, the devastation left behind caused the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Fire officials to launch “Operation Firestop,” a special task force focused on improving wildland firefighting. One of the recommendations was an evaluation of the CL-215T “Superscooper” aircraft for the Department’s initial attack on wildland fires.

“The Superscooper was selected for its ability to drop 1,620 gallons of water on a fire for quick suppression and to scoop water from any water source, including the ocean.  Their capacity is greater than most of our own helicopter fleet,” says Fire Chief Daryl Osby. “The first arrived in Los Angeles during the 1994 fire season, and this year we celebrate 20 years of their annual return to the Southland to help us battle tough wildfires during the height of our fire season.”

Since their debut, the Superscoopers have played a decisive role in knocking down fires before they grow large and out of control. They arrived on August 15 and are automatically deployed on all first alarm brush responses until they are demobilized later in the year when the rainy season begins. Their Los Angeles legacy will be highlighted August 26 during the annual Contract Aircraft media day event at Van Nuys Airport beginning at 10 a.m.

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