L.A. Fire Dept Maneuvers in Chatsworth Reservoir Spark Confusion, Controversy

YouTube video link: http://youtu.be/fGCMCWU-5hU

Beginning early this morning, several helicopters, water tank trucks & fire personnel conducted fire maneuvers from the Chatsworth Nature Preserve helipad, lasting throughout the morning.

 Five helicopters were relaying to & from the pad, filling with water & flying to a drop destination. A Chatsworth resident, riding her horse, stated that some water was being dropped over Oat Canyon. 

No notice was given to the residents who live along the Nature Preserve property line. Residents were confused & unnerved by the activity with no notice of a fire. Said one resident, "I didn't know whether to go to work or start packing up the house".
Another stated she spent 2 hours searching the web for info on where the fire was. Calls to the local fire dept. were sent to voice mail. Finally, after being pressed, the city fire dept. admitted it was a drill.

Another resident, a young mom with a toddler, stated that the noise was very disruptive & she was concerned that the extended noise of several helicopters flying directly overhead & lingering so close would be damaging for the child's hearing.

While these maneuvers are essential for the safety of the community & the fire dept is deeply appreciated & supported, residents feel disregarded & disrespected by the police, fire dept. & Dept. of Water & Power, all of whom frequent the Nature Preserve airspace.

Residents are disturbed on a daily basis by helicopters flying through and around the reservoir several times a day. Many of these flights occur at night and early morning.  One resident stated" All they see is this big open field & think its an ideal place to buzz around. They don't realize that we are right there too & it's incredibly aggravating to see & hear these helicopters circling round & round, buzzing our houses as they pass through. It was bad before the helipad went in last year but now its ruining our quality of life.

Some fire & police helicopters are using it as a shortcut to get to the opposite side of the valley, stated an LA fireman.  Other times the Dept. of Water & Power or the police are doing a routine property check.

However, according to residents who live at the property line, there are far too many daily helicopter flights occurring than are necessary.  Residents watch these copters hover over the Ecology Pond, circle the Preserve repeatedly, land in open spaces & take off. Some are LAPD, some are LAFD and some are unidentified.

Residents are now documenting this activity & are demanding some consideration. Among their requests are notifications posted on the LAFD, LAPD and community web sites listing when these routine property checks are going to occur and especially when fire maneuvers are planned. This would give residents forewarning.

Also requested is a ban on all non-essential fly-throughs, landings & circling and no recreational air activity permitted by government of civilian aircraft. This will limit the curiousity factor than may contribute to all the activity. Residents state regularly seeing helicopters land on the helipad & watching 1-3 men either sitting inside the copter or just walking around on the helipad area.

Since the area is a nature preserve, residents & environmental groups are concerned about the effect that repeated disturbances & noise have on the wildlife. Stated one environmentalist, “While the animals have adapted to some human activity, they are, for the most part, still very easily disturbed by the level of noise & helicopter activity taking place, particularly during nesting & breeding seasons. While some activity is warranted & necessary, the activity should be kept to what is essential only.

Another concern from the residents is the claim by L.A. city officials & the Dept of Water & Power that the Ecology Pond is no longer being filled & maintained with adequate water because there is a water shortage & the cost is too high. Yet, dozens of water drops occurred today for practice. Each drop is approximately 500 gallons.


The Ecology Pond is an essential source of water & habitat for all the wildlife in the Nature Preserve. Said one environmentalist, “There are no other open sources of water for these animals. Thousands of birds & dozens of mammal species including deer, fox & bobcat need the pond to survive”.  “Surely it is worth keeping the pond vital & healthy by adding water once in a while’.

Daniel Brin May 29, 2014 at 12:13 PM
The correct name of the helipad is the Glenn V. Smith Helispot in West Hills.
Bob Brostoff May 29, 2014 at 04:15 PM
I am the block captain for the West Hills North Neighborhood Watch and a member of the West Hills Neighborhood Council. When the helipad, which is located in West Hills, not Chatsworth, was firs proposed, the LAFD came to make presentations at both organizations to get the neighborhood behind it. The purpose of placing a helilpad there is there was no helipad for LAFD to use if, and when, there are brush fires in the west valley, or other close by locations, like Santa Clarita and Simi Valley. The neighbors were strongly in favor of having this kind of protection nearby. It was explained by LAFD that the pad would only be used by LAFD and for no other purpose. They did say that there would be times when it would be used for training purposes, so that when a real fire started, the pilots and support teams would know how, and what, to do. I have an very active email roster, of over 200 names, most which contains email addresses of folks located from Topanga Canyon Blvd, west to the county line, and from Roscoe Blvd, north to Nordhoff St. I have had no complaints from anyone over the absolutely necessary training that took place recently. We appreciate what the LAFD does for us. That helipad has been used numerous times for brush fires in the hills surrounding us. I can't speak for the other helicopter flights by LAPD, Sherrif'fs, TV stations, etc., that fly over the reservoir. I do know that there are efforts on the part of the city of Los Angeles and other governmental agencies to limit the flight frequency, altitude, and fpaths, over large metropolitan areas.
Jock May 29, 2014 at 04:51 PM
Helicopter Noise pollution is a big problem in L.A.. That being said, it is not in our neck of the woods. This is the first such training exercise we have noted and yes we could hear the hovering 'copters (sounded like News choppers in the city). However I'm with Bob as to the good outweighing the bad. Caveat- as long as it is not constant. As to the water, yes indeed DWP, Councilman Mitch, Let's turn the spigot on we need more agua in the pond, not less. For the poor lady whose baby was scared, oh my, never ever go on the other side of the hill where every minute is filled with that sound and the slap slap slap of sideways rotor blades and the night time illumination. As it was a new occurrence here, I am also with the commenter who didn't know whether to pack or not. It is rural and we know to tremble when we smell smoke and hear helicopters and sirens. Perhaps a little blip on "The Patch" re upcoming drills ?
Jock May 29, 2014 at 05:28 PM
And I agree J.L. there have been many more Helicopters in general buzzing around and not nearly all are Fire or Sheriff or LAPD. Also it's a favorite area for pilot training on light aircraft. Love hearing guys do stalls over the hills here. One day one will stay stalled.


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