The Board of Supervisors Tuesday authorized the Riverside County Fire Department to purchase a helicopter “dip tank” and a trailer to haul it, specifically for operations that serve hard-to-reach locations in the mountain communities.

In a 5-0 vote without comment, the board granted fire Chief Bill Weiser’s request to enter a sole-source, non-competitive procurement agreement with Simi Valley-based PumpPod USA, in the amount of $66,884.

Under the contract, PumpPod will furnish the fire department with a 7,000-gallon dip tank from which Cal Fire helicopters can easily draw water wherever it’s placed. A 22-foot-long tilt-trailer to transport the device is part of the packaged deal.

“This (dip tank) will significantly improve response times for helicopter firefighting operations by reducing turnaround time for water drop and refill,” according to an agency statement. “The trailer and tank will be … serving the mountain communities of Idyllwild, Pine Cove and Mountain Center.”

The stainless steel tank has an advertised durability of 20 years, officials said.

By keeping it mobile and stationing it close to wildfires within the San Bernardino National Forest, Cal Fire chopper crews will be able to rapidly draw supplies and make runs on wildland blazes in less time than might be required flying to lakes, ponds or even swimming pools for supplies, according to the fire department.

Officials said other options were considered, including placing tanks on water tenders that can be driven to different areas, but the tanks would contain much less water and require a greater number of support personnel to operate.

Southern California’s wildfire season is expected to begin early this year due to the deficit in winter rains.

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