Three Vancouver Island aircraft deployed to help fight Amazon wildfire
Published Tuesday, September 3, 2019 6:33PM PDT Last Updated Wednesday, September 4, 2019 10:38AM PDT
The battle against massive wildfires in Bolivia will be receiving some aerial assistance this week thanks to a Vancouver Island-based company.
Port Alberni's Coulson Aviation will be sending three helicopters and nearly two dozen personnel to the central South American country at the request of Bolivia's military.
Company president and CEO Wayne Coulson says his firm previously had dealings with the country.
The Vancouver Island company sold Bolivia firefighting tankers. This year, however, requests were made for helicopters to aid in this fire season.
"Specifically they wanted the helicopters so we'll be pretty much working on the urban interface and working on structure protection and protecting lives and property," Coulson says.
Two of the company's Sikorsky helicopters are already en route to South America while a Chinook helicopter will be flown down inside a large transport aircraft on Wednesday.
According to Coulson, all three vehicles should be on site and ready for service by Thursday.
"We understand there's a significant amount of fire and we've been talking of course to the Bolivian government aids down there and they have significant fire for us to work in so we'll get started right away once we get there," Coulson says.
The company's vice-president of aviation, Britt Coulson, says employees at the Alberni facility are feeling a certain honour in the task.
"Being the first and only rotary-wing operator being called down to fight the [...] Amazon wildfires to date, it's a real honour," she said.
The Chinook helicopter is a converted aircraft purchased by the American military and Britt says it contains specialized technology.
"When you see something like this and you've got the very first tanked CH-47 helicopter in the world with this type of system, to see that go out the door and then to know it's out supporting — whether it's Canadian, U.S., or overseas government — everyone feels a lot of pride in it," Britt says.
The company will set up a base of operations in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, but will re-deploy as its resources are required elsewhere.
Meanwhile, crews at the Coulson facility are currently working on reconfiguring an additional aircraft to be used in next year's fire season.