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L.A. County Supervisors Considering Whether To Buy Superscooper Instead Of Leasing

LOS ANGELES ( — Los Angeles County supervisors are considering whether to buy or continue leasing specially designed amphibious firefighting aircraft from Canada as the ongoing drought, in its fifth year, extends the fire season.

For the past 20 years, the county has been leasing two Superscoopers for prime fire season, which traditionally is from September through November.

"Fire seasons were different in the 90's and early 2000. Today, the fire season is basically 52 weeks out of the year," Supervisor Michael Antonovich said Tuesday.

It costs $37 million to buy a Bombardier 415 water bomber and $24,000 a day to lease one for only part of the year.

"Personally, I would like to have all the aircraft necessary to put out fires in place 52 weeks out of the year," said Antonovich, who recommended exploring options for having at least one of the leased water bomber available year-round.

On Tuesday, the supervisors ordered to have two Superscoopers on lease in place in two weeks and not have to wait until Sept. 1.

The board also called for a review of the county's aerial firefighting apparatus in light of the expanding fire season.

"We need to do a complete assessment of our entire air operations and report back to the board," Chief Daryl Osby of the L.A. County Fire Department told the board Tuesday.

Some are wondering if it would have made a difference had the Superscoopers were already available for the Sand Fire that has scorched nearly 38,000 acres in the Santa Clarita Valley.

"The Superscoopers are really effective for initial attack. Based on the response last Friday, we felt that we had the appropriate response with our fire engines, our crews and our choppers," Osby said. "Unfortunately, the fire spotted over our containment lines, into the river and went up the mountain.

A Superscooper can scoop up 1,620 gallons of water in 12 seconds.

Fire officials have said Southern California already has one of the largest fleets of firefighting aircraft in the country.

Antonovich said the county can always use more.

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