Last time the mayor called a press conference to talk about firefighting helicopters, it was one of the hottest days of the year. Television photographers and reporters sweated in the heat of Montgomery Field airport as the mayor made various announcements about the city’s aerial firefighting abilities.

This time, the reporters and officials shivered in the damp, cold breeze as Mayor Sanders and San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarman announced plans to purchase a new helicopter for the city’s firefighting team.

Sanders explained that the helicopter will be bought on a lease-purchase agreement, and that the city will be looking for corporate sponsors to help pay for the new aircraft. He didn’t say whether or not Sunroad Enterprises, which was a major sponsor of the Fire Department’s first and only helicopter, will be a sponsor this time round.

Jarman explained that a new helicopter will do wonders to protect San Diegans throughout the year and not just when wildfires are attacking the city. Last year, the department’s only helicopter, Copter 1, was out of service for maintenance for 49 days of the year, Jarman said. Having a backup helicopter will mean San Diego will have almost unbroken coverage throughout the year, 24 hours a day, she said.

Jarman said she hopes the helicopter will be available by August 2008. She plans to ask the City Council to start the process for acquiring the new helicopter in January 2008, she said.

WILL CARLESS

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