County News Service
February 28, 2014 (San Diego) -- A new Sheriff’s Department helicopter could serve double duty, helping both law enforcement and firefighters. The Bell 407 GX helicopter the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department wants to add to its aerial fleet could also support local fire departments with fire suppression efforts.
Tuesday, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a request by the department’s Aerial Support to Regional Enforcement Agencies (ASTREA) unit to purchase a Bell 407 GX.
The department identified a need for another helicopter in 2010 due to increased calls for aerial support, and began setting money aside In 2011, the unit had 1,988 calls for service. By last year, those calls had increased notably to 2,425, according to Sheriff’s staff.
The new helicopter will increase the department’s aerial fleet to eight helicopters, and improve its ability to assist with firefighting. Currently, ASTREA has two Bell 205 helicopters primarily used for firefighting, a Bell 407 helicopter which can be used for both firefighting and law enforcement operations, and four smaller MD helicopters for law enforcement support which includes search and rescue operations.