Travis Co. to request bids for new firefighting helicopter - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Travis Co. to request bids for new firefighting helicopter

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Travis County's Shock Trauma Air Rescue, or STAR Flight, is expected to send out a request for bids this week for its new firefighting helicopter.

Commissioners approved the $2.4 million aircraft in September.

One of STAR Flight's most recent missions involved saving two people from a boat that ran aground at Pace Bend Park this weekend.

Besides search and rescue, the blue and yellow EC-145's also conduct patient transports, assist law enforcement, and fight fires.

STAR Flight program director, Casey Ping, says with the addition of the new firefighting helicopter, new training is required for firefighters, especially when it comes to the pumpkin, the transportable water tank that holds 4,800 gallons of water.

"Make sure they know how to use the helicopter, what its capabilities are, what its limitations are. Part of the training we need to make sure they know is you've seen our pumpkin, the thing we dip water out of. They have to know how to set that up," said Ping.

The new helicopter will be a refurbished military surplus Huey.

It is the first time STAR Flight will be able to use one helicopter for one mission, fighting wild land fires.

This helps relieve the burden of the other three aircraft for the other missions.

Ping says STAR Flight made every fire in Travis County when an aircraft was requested last year.

During the Labor Day Wildfires, though, STAR Flight couldn't help Bastrop County because all three of its helicopters were busy fighting fires in Pflugerville, Steiner Ranch, Spicewood, and Leander. Tens of thousands of acres and thousands of homes were lost.

Ping says even 15 helicopters wouldn't have helped much in the Bastrop wildfires, Travis County's newest helicopter is one more tool that can and will help future wildfires.

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