Port Alberni company helps battle wildfires around the world, but not in B.C.
PORT ALBERNI, B.C. -- A Vancouver Island company that's battling wildfires around the world says it can't seem to make any progress on its own doorstep.
The Coulson Group is going through another large expansion and is furthering its reputation as one of the best in the business, but says it still can't get a contract to battle flames in British Columbia.
"A lot of it's dependent on what lobbyists you have, who you know and less about price and performance and more about relationships," Coulson Group vice president of aviation Britt Coulson says.
He says his company bid on supplying aircraft to fight B.C. wildfires approximately two years ago and says it will likely be a few more years before the opportunity comes around again.
He says negotiating with B.C. is different than anywhere in the world.
"We work in Australia, we work in the U.S., South America, we work in Indonesia and all of those are up-front, straightforward processes where the agency issues a request for proposal, it gets bid on, you're compliant or you're not and you're scored per the published scoring," he says.
Coulson says B.C. has a lot of unwritten requirements.
The BC Wildfire Service says its staff works continually to ensure that the most appropriate firefighting equipment is used in fighting blazes and contracts are awarded through a competitive process.
Information provided to CTV News by the wildfire service says it has improved its air tanker fleet by adding 15 per cent more fire retardant capacity and 150 per cent more skimmer capacity. The service says 39 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft will be used in 2020.
In reference to Coulson's technology, the wildfire service says "there are more modern and cost-effective aircraft available for use in B.C.'s varied terrain."
Coulson disputes that point, saying that aircraft currently being used in the province include technology from the 1950s and ’60s, whereas his company has moved on from that.
"Everywhere else in the world (is) modernizing their fleet and there's a big push to do that. Our average fleet age now is mid-to-early ’90s," he says.
He says that's generations beyond what's being used in B.C.