A New Eye in the Sky for Smoke Eaters


Its price tag is $1.5 million. There are only two in the world. And one of them will spend this fire season (through the end of September) in Boise.

The U.S. Forest Service gave Citydesk a look at the Bell 209-Cobra helicopter, a state-of-the-art firefighting tool. The "ship" is outfitted with specialized equipment for command and control, intelligence gathering and mapping. Traditionally used in theaters of war, the retro-fitted chopper features multiple infrared video systems with a multi-channel microwave transmitter capable of down-linking color or infrared camera images to a portable microwave receiver. The dual cockpit of the Cobra will house a pilot and specially trained firefighter to relay real-time firefighting strategies to the full team, both on the ground and in the air.

The Intermountain Region of the Forest Service is hosting the Cobra which will be based at the Lucky Peak Helibase off of Highway 21, northwest of Boise. The chopper is expected to be dispatched throughout the Region as the 2010 fire season escalates. Currently, National Interagency Fire officials have deployed approximately 50 Idaho firefighters to assist the effort in battling a wildfire, which has burned 14,000 acres north of Flagstaff, Ariz.