The Fire Hawk helitanker came in fast, low, and loud in a dramatic flyover.
Set high atop Saddle Peak, the 69 Bravo Helistop is a unique facility where water-dropping helicopters can quickly refill from four self-replenishing water reservoirs that provide Topanga and its neighbors with the worldâs top water supply station.
With a 360-degree view of the surrounding areas, the state-of-the-art helistop is fully automated with 24/7 live cameras, a weather station, sprinklers, fire sensors and other high-tech capabilities that help protect the entire Santa Monica Mountains and surrounding areas from wildfire.
Owned by Simon T and leased to L.A. County, the 34-acre site also boasts two helipads, one for the Sheriffsâ Dept. and one for L.A. County Fire to land the water-dropping FireHawk helicopters capable of holding up to 1,000 gallons in their external belly tanks and three magnificent Chinook helitankers that carry 3,000 gallons that are currently on lease for fire season to Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange Counties.
69 Bravo also supports medical and Search and Rescue efforts of the L.A. County Sheriffsâ Department. There is even a small water tank for deer and local wildlife so they stay away from the big tanks.
Simon T (left), owner of 69 Bravo, with Will Carey of Arson Watch (center) and Roger Pugliese of TASC (right).
Photos by Annemarie Donkin Battalion Chief Rick Lewis described features of the 69 Bravo helistop and why it is a state-of-the-art facility.
Topanga Historical Society
To see and learn what 69 Bravo Helistop is capable of, more than 70 members of the Topanga Historical Society (THS) ventured up the mountain on a hot and muggy Sunday morning to visit the site. The event was hosted by Historical Society and President Ed OâNeill, who welcomed the group to see the remarkable facility. OâNeill opened with a short description of 69 Bravo, then introduced L.A. County Fire Battalion Chief Rick Lewis, who spoke of the site as a totally contained facility, with four tanks, helipads and weather station.
âThis facility is uniquely equipped to have the resources at our disposal. So far, 1.6 million gallons of water have been dropped from here,â Lewis said. âWe also use this for medical transport. If something happens in Topanga, we can land a âcopter and transport someone from home to UCLA or Northridge in minutes.â
James Grasso of Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparation (TCEP) and the president of Topanga CERT, spoke about the importance of 69 Bravo for radio communication among first responders in the Santa Monica Mountains.
James Grasso of TCEP, explained the importance of 69 Bravo for radio communication among first responders in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Douglas Fascennelli, the new captain of Station 69.
Grasso said that âtop of the hourâ emergency updates from 69 Bravo are transmitted via TCEP.com and Twitter on TCEP@90290. TCEP has set two repeaters on the mountain so the site can also be used as a command center. For more information: t-cep.org/emergencystatus.
While Grasso was speaking, Battalion Chief Lewis tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to the sky. On cue, a FireHawk did a spectacular flyover, buzzing the group with an ear-splitting roar.
Everyone cheered, knowing that Topanga and the Santa Monica Mountains were safe in the hands of 69 Bravo and the brave and experienced L.A. County Firefighters and Sheriffs Search and Rescue teams who use it.
âThere are 90-100 Helistops in L.A. County; 69 Bravo is the gold standard,â said Douglas Fascenelli, the new captain of Topangaâs Station 69. âFor Topanga, you want this here.â
For more information about the Topanga Historical Society, visit topangahistoricalsociety.org.