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Colorado’s first Firehawk helicopter ready for launch amid expected average fire activity this spring

Posted at 6:40 AM, Apr 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-18 08:40:25-04

DENVER — Colorado’s first Firehawk helicopter was on display Wednesday as Gov. Jared Polis and other state officials presented this year’s wildfire preparedness plan.

The newly manufactured Black Hawk helicopter arrived in Colorado in 2022, but after multiple delays — partly due to an engine recall — the state’s newest firefighting machine is nearly ready to launch.

WATCH: A first look at Colorado's Firehawk

The Firehawk is expected to be operational around May 10 after pilots of the aircraft complete a final acceptance test next week, according to Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control Director Mike Morgan.

The launch of the Firehawk will coincide with what is expected to be average wildland fire activity in most parts of Colorado through the late spring and early summer, Morgan said. But the southeast area of the state may see elevated fire potential.

“The fire outlook for this year, current forecasts indicate that it will be normal fire potential expected across most of Colorado for the outlook period of April through July. Except for Southeast Colorado, some elevated conditions down there in the San Luis Valley,” Morgan said during a press conference Wednesday at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield.

However, this hardly means wildfire won't affect the state. In an average year, Colorado sees 5,500 wildfires that burn about 220,000 acres, Morgan explained.

Despite what may be an average season, the Firehawk helicopter will be busy responding to fires anywhere in the state at a moment’s notice, extinguishing blazes before they grow. The helicopter can also fly in the night and is capable of flying in worse wind conditions than standard helicopters.

“The Firehawk is ideally suited for responding to wildfires in Colorado due to its ability to fly in Colorado's hot, high-flight environment,” Morgan said. “Additionally, the flexibility of the Firehawk is one of its strongest assets. With the ability to fly anywhere in the state and arrive within one hour.”

This new piece of firefighting equipment is the result of the state's push for better preparation and attacks on wildfires. Those efforts included the passage of a bill in 2021 dedicating $24 million for the acquisition of the aircraft.

Polis authorized the purchase of a second Firehawk, which is scheduled to be delivered in 2025.

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