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OC Supervisors Want Answers Over Ongoing Helicopter Feud Between Fire, Sheriff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County Supervisors are asking for state officials to help mediate a settlement in a feud between the county's sheriff and fire departments over an ongoing "helicopter war" between the agencies.

For two years, the sheriff's and fire pilots have waged a public dispute, sometimes racing each other to get their helicopters to rescue scenes, leading to growing concern that the quarrel will lead to an in-flight collision.

A now-lapsed agreement allowed sheriff's helicopters to be used to patrol and to search out missing persons, while wilderness and other rescue operations were generally left to firefighters.

The dispute camed to a head last week after Sheriff Sandra Hutchens declared her department as the "primary
provider for remote-area search-and-rescue missions."

But on Tuesday, Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) Interim Chief Patrick McIntosh told supervisors his agency will ignore Hutchens' recent assertion of authority over helicopter responses to search-and-rescue operations.

McIntosh disputed Hutchen's assertion that she has the legal authority to take over responses to such operations, saying his agency believes otherwise.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a member of the OCFA board, called McIntosh's statement "very, very dangerous," adding, "it doesn't change anything about two agencies racing to calls, and that's not good for our county."

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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