Permanent Fire-Fighting Helicopter Organization Formed

One of our members, Larry Thompson, an architect and long time resident, has worked for over four years with County Fire to organize and gain approval for a private fire helicopter service to serve our area.  Realizing that county fire helicopters based in Santa Ynez can take over 30 minutes or more to mobilize and fly to the South Coast when time is critical to knock down an incipient fire, he had a plan for fire response helicopters to be on alert here in our area during high fire season to cut that response time to 5-12 minutes.

The South Coast has lost over 1,100 homes in the last fifty years due to wildfires, about twenty-two per year on average.  Although the Santa Ynez station is close to the center of this large county, 70 percent of fire damage historically occurs on the South Coast, where tens of billions of dollars in property exist.  Why, then, not have service right here and contain these fires before they spread over another 20-30 minutes?  Fires like Jesusita could have been out well before they spread to burn so many homes!

That plan is now real. The Aerial Firefighting Foundation, an IRS 501 (c) (3) tax-deductible foundation, now exists. After reviewing proposals, the Foundation has a contracted with a private helicopter company that has extensive wild fire helicopter experience. The County Fire Chief has endorsed the operation in writing. Unfortunately, the County does not have the funding for this project, so costs must be borne by South Coast residents.

Supporters include Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Goleta Councilman Mike Bennett. The Foundation has received a substantial matching donation commitment from a South Coast resident to boost the Foundation’s progress. This will match four year commitments by others totaling up to $250,000 per year.  What is needed now are donations from all of us in the Riviera Association as well as from others outside the Association to fully fund the helicopter program, as the fire season is now underway and preparations will take time even after a retainer fee is made and Letter of Intent are completed.

Please contact Lawrence Thompson for more information and to make your tax-deductible donation.

Lawrence Thompson, President, Aerial Firefighting Foundation

1525 State Street, Suite #99, Santa Barbara

Tel.  805-962-2236   Fax: 805-962-9042


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