The Province's fire crews are testing a new, made-in-B.C. product this summer expected to speed delivery of water to small wildfires, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell said today.
"Our fire crews' motto is 'hit hard and hit fast' for a good reason - when fighting wildfires, every minute counts," said Bell. "This new bucket system, the first of its kind in the world, will help ferry water to our ground crews faster, which also frees the helicopters to spend more time dropping water on the fire lines."
The apparatus, dubbed the Bambi Bucket Off Load Port, will be tested this summer on wildfires in the Coastal and Kamloops regions. The tube-like device allows fire crews to fill Stillwell portable water tanks from an airborne helicopter bucket. Stillwell tanks are large water bladders that are typically used to support ground crews on smaller fires.
Currently, to fill a Stillwell tank, a pilot needs to land the helicopter, detach the water bucket, and take a crew person away from the fire line to help load the Stillwell. The pilot and crew persons then fly to a water source, fill the water tank, and return to the fire where they must offload the tank and reattach the water bucket before the helicopter can resume its water drops.
While circumstances vary with each fire, it is not unusual to repeat this process two or three times a day. This can add up to one hour when the helicopter and ground crew members are diverted from other firefighting activities.
"British Columbia is seen as a world leader in wildfire response," said Bell. "In large measure, that's due to the talented individuals across the Wildfire Management Branch who work closely with suppliers and local industry to develop innovative tools and equipment."
The Coastal Fire Centre's aviation section, provincial air carriers, and SEI Industries Ltd. worked closely to develop the Off-Load Port. The initial concept came from a Vancouver Island helicopter pilot, who then worked with the Coastal Fire Centre aviation staff to develop a prototype. SEI Industries Ltd. examined the prototype and determined an opportunity existed to create a consistent product that could be engineered into its product line.
"SEI is an industry leader in innovative firefighting equipment," said Shawn Bethel, firefighting division manager, SEI Industries. "Much of our success over the past 30 years comes from the valuable feedback we get from agencies like the Wildfire Management Branch and helicopter operators. We see this latest innovation as just another example of how the public and private sector can work together to better protect our forests and communities from wildfires."
B.C. Wildfire Management Branch crews will provide feedback at the end of the 2010 wildfire season to help refine the technology prior to commercial release.
SEI Industries Ltd., a B.C. company, is a world leader in helicopter bucket technology and manufactures the widely used Bambi Bucket. Visit SEI online at www.sei-ind.com