What it's Like to be a Firefighter Helicopter Pilot
Without the aggressive overnight attack of the Sepulveda Pass Fire on Thursday morning, Mandeville Canyon in Brentwood may have burnt to the ground. Albeit dangerous, helicopter water drops played a huge role in knocking down the flames: "In daytime, this is dangerous enough. At night, a mountainside might look like open sky, power lines might vanish in the black, an approaching aircraft's lights might blend with the streetlights in the background. The dark can play tricks on the eyes... Fire pilots generally follow a 50/50 rule -- drop the water at 50 knots and at 50 feet above the flames. Too slow or low, the water doesn't smother enough fire. Higher and faster, it dissipates too much." The LAFD even has a t-shirt about night flying. It says "We Own The Night" and has an illustration of a helicopter over a fire.