Environment & Science

Meet the Super Scoopers, the super troopers of the fire season

August 6, 2016: One of two Super Scoopers arrive at the Van Nuys airport.
August 6, 2016: One of two Super Scoopers arrive at the Van Nuys airport.
Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews
August 6, 2016: One of two Super Scoopers arrive at the Van Nuys airport.
August 6, 2016: Two Super Scoopers arrive at the Van Nuys airport.
Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews
August 6, 2016: One of two Super Scoopers arrive at the Van Nuys airport.
August 6, 2016: A Super Scooper arrives at the Van Nuys airport.
Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews
August 6, 2016: One of two Super Scoopers arrive at the Van Nuys airport.
August 6, 2016: A Super Scooper arrives at the Van Nuys airport.
Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews


L.A. County's best tool to battle wildfires is here and ready to go.

More efficient than normal firefighting aircraft, Super Scoopers are massive, water-dumping aircraft on lease from Canada.  

They arrive each year in August for what used to be the start of Southern California's fire season. But dry, brittle brush and an ongoing drought have made that a year around fight. This year, they came early.

"The big deal is that super scoopers can fly over large bodies of water," L.A. County Fire inspector Richard Licon tells KPCC. "They open up the nose of the plane, and without having to land to be refueled, they scoop up the water — 1,600 gallons in each one — take right off and go continuously fight the fire."

The 41,000-acre Sand Fire near Santa Clarita last month convinced the county to lease the two planes three weeks early.

There's been some talk among L.A. County officials about whether to purchase a Super Scooper and have it available for year-round. But Licon says, "Because of the cost, it's more effective for us to lease them. The Board of Supervisors, they all vote on it and approve it. And for the last 23 years, they all have voted on it and approved it. And we just renewed the lease for 25 years."