Austin Police Department's Air Support Unit began testing their fire fighting water dropping bucket yesterday. The device, which can hold up to 180 gallons of water, was operated over a local lake. The bucket would be lowered down to the water to load and takes about 10-20 seconds to fill. The drops were made over certain types of brush and trees. The Air Support pilots will eventually be trained and certified using the equipment. The testing was done with their new Eurocopter AS350B3 AStar patrol helicopter. APD's Air Support currently operates three helicopters in the force.
This is a welcome addition for firefighters in the area. Travis Country Star-Flight already has a number of helicopters equipped for water drops although their main operation is air rescue and critical hospital transportation. Texas has experienced a long period of drought and many parts of the state are still very prone to brush fires. Burn bans still exist in many counties.