The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) has signed a contract with a Colorado business to complete and deliver a $24 million state-of-the-art helicopter, fully equipped to help with firefighting efforts across the state.
On Monday morning, DFPC announced that it had signed the contract with United Rotorcraft, a division of Air Methods Corporation. The company, which is based out of Englewood, will finish and deliver a Sikorsky S70i Firehawk helicopter.
The helicopter is outfitted with a 1,000-gallon water tank, extended landing gear to accommodate the tank, a retractable snorkel that can refill the tank in less than one minute, and a rescue hoist. In addition to attacking wildfires, it can transport up to 12 firefighters to the fire line and rescue people when needed.
The Firehawk is designed to stop fires before they can grow.
DFPC Director Mike Morgan said it is critical to increase the state’s capacity to respond to wildfires, especially in the wake of the 2020 fires. Last year, more than 6,700 fires burned 744,120 acres in the state.
Vince Welbaum, DFPC aviation unit chief, said having a state-owned aircraft will increase DFPC's capacity to respond to fires on a year-round basis. Some fires in 2020 weren't fully contained until December.
Senate Bill 21-113 authorized the purchase — about $24 million. Gov. Jared Polis signed it on March 21.
The Firehawk helicopter is also equipped to help in situations not related to wildfires, such as rockslide and avalanche prevention, wildlife counts, livestock preservation, search and rescues, and medical evacuation missions.
READ MORE: Colorado officials predict another year of intense wildfires after record-setting 2020
Larry Alexandre, president of United Rotorcraft, said life-saving missions have a special place in the heart and values of the company.
"We are incredibly proud to be the exclusive completion center for the Firehawk helicopter, and even more proud to deliver one to our home state," Alexandre said. "We appreciate the trust that the people of Colorado have put in us, and plan to deliver a product unlike any other.”
The aircraft is expected to be delivered to Centennial in early 2022, and will then undergo a transformation into a multi-mission machine. DFPC said the state will take control of the helicopter late in 2022.
In addition, in early July, the DFPC selected Neptune Aviation for an exclusive-use contract for a large firefighting airtanker to help the state battle current and future wildfires.