Liquid News

IRWD Reservoirs Boost Region’s Responsiveness to Fires

California’s voracious wildfires require a rapid and aggressive response from fire crews.

Quite often, that means calling in fixed-wing and rotorcraft air attacks to combat challenging conflagrations by dropping water onto the flames.

Irvine Ranch Water District’s open reservoirs are continuously available and frequently used for these purposes.

Even when there is no blaze in sight, local firefighters and other emergency response teams practice their aerial attacks at IRWD reservoirs.

On a recent sunlit afternoon, a mini swarm of Airbus B2 choppers from Anaheim P.D. performed drills at Irvine Lake -- dipping containers called “Bambi buckets” into the reservoir to fill them and strategically release the water in a targeted area.

Good aim makes all the difference when it comes to a successful drop.

The three whirlybirds – operated by the department’s Air Support Division Patrol – comprise a burly fleet of public safety agency helicopters that are trained, ready and able to respond to a wildfire when called.

Orange County Fire Authority also recently performed dip-and-drop techniques at the District’s San Joaquin recycled water reservoir, said Water Operations Manager Ken Pfister.

“It’s an added benefit of our reservoir system,” Pfister said. “These trainings use very little water, but they are extremely effective at helping our fire safety agencies do their job.”

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An Anaheim Police Department Airbus B2 helicopter lifts a Bambi bucket load of water from Irvine Lake.

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Accuracy in dropping the water is important in firefighting.

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A crew watches as a copter hits its target.

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The buckets can hold anywhere from 72 to 2,600 gallons of water for firefighting.

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Dust and debris are kicked up by the powerful force of the helicopter's rotating blades during landing.

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