Collier Sheriff wants $750K chopper to fight fires


NAPLES, Fla. It’s a question of just how much fire protection Collier County needs.

Sheriff Kevin Rambosk is proposing a $750,000 expenditure on a helicopter that can dump water on fires immediately. But County Commissioner Penny Taylor isn’t sold on the idea, since the state already provides similar technology.

The county has been particularly hard-hit during Florida’s most active wildfire season in six years. Four homes were destroyed in a fire that tore through the Picayune Strand State Forest in March, and the same was true for a blaze in Golden Gate Estates last month.

Some of the aerial firefighting tools used in the county this year weren’t immediately available, Greater Naples Fire Chief Kingman Schuldt said.

“It did take us some time to gain additional assets from the state and southeast Florida,” he said.

Sheriff’s office Special Operations Lt. Sean Arthur touted the idea of having the helicopter within the county and ready to go as a crucial time-saver. Timing is key as flames spread, he said.

“The longer we let it go, the bigger it’s going to get,” Arthur said.

The helicopter could be deployed in rescue missions as well, Arthur said.

The funding request will go before the County Commission on Tuesday.

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