Helicopters have established a name for themselves as one of the most versatile tools available to workers in a number of industries, including construction, aerial cinematography, disaster relief, firefighting, and land conservation.
According to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG), “1946 marked the beginning of a long relationship between wildland fire and helicopters.” It was summer of that year when Gerald Demming first piloted a Bell 47 aircraft for the purpose of conducting wildland fire operations.
Since then, helicopters have become an essential means of both fighting fires from above and setting controlled fires to manage vital ecosystems and conserve land. In fact, “there are few fires where this aviation resource is not utilized in some capacity,” shares the NWCG.
Below, you’ll learn how your organization can use aerial firefighting helicopters to aid your most challenging firefighting operations, from aerial water delivery to prescribed burning.
Aerial water delivery to aid firefighting efforts
Aerial water delivery is a means of skycrane helicopter firefighting that enables the aircraft to drop a stream of water or fire suppressants on the fire below.
How aerial water delivery works
Your chosen pilot will strategically position the firefighter helicopter over the wildfire. Then, either the pilot or the crew will enable the release valve of the aircraft’s attached, suspended bucket or tank to drop water or retardants on the fire.
Experienced firefighting pilots or crew members can open the bucket or tank electronically to drop suppressants while in forward flight, or they can open and close the water delivery system to dispense spot drops. A third option to target stubborn fire hotpots is to dispense a significant amount of water or retardant in one specific area.
Crews can fill buckets and tanks using a snorkel that siphons water from deep water sources such as rivers, lakes, and oceans. Some snorkels even allow for siphoning from shallow water sources like streams or ponds.
The Bambi Bucket® advantage
First introduced by SEI Industries Ltd. in 1982, the Bambi Bucket is a collapsible bucket offering a pilot-controlled or crew-controlled valve capable of delivering a concentrated stream of water from a helicopter to the fire raging on the ground below.
Due to its efficient design and high versatility, the Bambi Bucket currently garners 90% of the world market share of firefighting buckets. In fact, this bucket is now used by over 1,000 helicopter operators in over 115 countries worldwide.
Customizable Bambi Bucket features
SEI Industries has created over 20 different sizes of Bambi Buckets to ensure your exact needs are met. Bucket capacities range from 72 U.S. gallons to 2,600 U.S. gallons to fit nearly any helicopter.
The Bambi Bucket includes numerous features and offers a variety of options for helicopter operators, including:
- Cost-efficient aerial water delivery
- Compact size, minimal weight, and portability
- Versatility (suitable for any size helicopter)
- Variable fill capability (including fast fill or shallow water capability)
- Ability to be controlled by pilot or helicopter crew
- Unique construction of bucket using fabric designed for optimum durability and strength
- Instant-open dump valve
- Foam injection systems available
Helicopter Express offers aerial firefighting helicopters equipped with Bambi Buckets to meet your organization’s specific needs
At Helicopter Express, we offer an entire fleet of aerial firefighting helicopters to assist in your most challenging fire operations or aid the most dangerous emergencies.
Our Kaman K-Max K-1200 is equipped with a 680-gallon-capacity external Bambi Bucket. We also offer modified Bell 205A-1 helicopters equipped with Bambi buckets offering capacities between 324 and 375 gallons.
Our helicopters’ bubble windows provide a clear view of the fire and the designated drop areas below, ensuring safe and sufficient aerial water delivery. Additionally, our pilots and crew members are highly experienced in determining where and how to safely attack fires and provide the best assistance to firefighters on the ground.
Learn how we helped firefighters extinguish the Chilean wildfires of 2017 or contact our Atlanta helicopter service experts to learn how our firefighter helicopters can provide the aerial water delivery you need to aid your firefighting efforts.
Prescribed burning to aid land conservation efforts
According to the U.S. Forest Service, prescribed fire—also known as a “prescribed burn” or “controlled burn”—is a planned fire that land management officers use to meet their objectives.
Prescribed burning can benefit human beings, animals, plants, and the land that we all depend on to survive.
How prescribed burning works
First, prescribed burning specialists create a burn plan. They identify the most favorable conditions under which plants and trees in the designated area will burn in order to safely achieve optimal results. The burn plan takes into account important environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, vegetation moisture levels, and wind.
Then, the aerial firefighting helicopter chosen for the operation is fitted with a device capable of expelling flame-producing chemicals. Your helicopter crew will safely fill the device with the proper chemicals, and the prescribed fire specialists will compare ground conditions to their burn plan to decide whether to burn on the agreed-upon day.
During flight, the experienced pilot or crew will dispense the substances from the helicopter to strategically ignite controlled fires in the designated locations.
Why prescribed burning is necessary
Many ecosystems rely on periodic fire to remain healthy, and many land managers use this tactic to clear dense vegetation and minimize the risk associated with uncontrollable wildfires.
Forests without fire enable trees to become stressed from overcrowding and hazardous, flammable fuels to accumulate. Many ecosystems rely on fires to occur every 2-7 years. These ecosystems include pine forests, pine-saw palmetto flatwoods, mixed hardwood forests, mixed deciduous forests, and wet and dry prairies, among others.
Additionally, fire helps to maintain the habitats of many species, including certain types of tortoises, woodpeckers, deer, foxes, and squirrels.
Benefits of prescribed burning
Here are a few of the key ways in which prescribed fire can benefit humans, animals, insects, plants, and ecosystems:
- Minimizes hazardous fuels, which helps protect humans from the impact of spontaneous wildfire
- Reduces the spread of pest insects and disease
- Helps to eliminate foreign species that threaten native species
- Provides forage for game
- Returns nutrients to the soil
- Restores degraded ecosystems for threatened and endangered species
- Encourages growth of plants, wildflowers, and trees
- Increases the diversity of insects, amphibians, birds, small mammals, and plants
- Shrinks the likelihood of unwanted wildfires in the future
How firefighter helicopters and the Helicopter Express crew can aid your prescribed burning efforts
Prescribed burning enables government agencies and organizations to set a fire in the right place at the right time so humans, animals, insects, and plants can reap the maximum environmental benefits.
You can hire an aerial crane company like Helicopter Express that specializes in aerial firefighting and controlled burning to assist in the maintenance of your land’s most important ecosystems. This firefighting helicopter team will work with you to choose the best helicopter for your mission and establish an extensive plan for the prescribed burn.
At Helicopter Express, we have the personnel, training, and equipment you need to support your natural resources and reduce the risk of unwanted wildfires in the future. Our trusted experts are more than capable of leading dangerous firefighting efforts and tackling firefighting emergencies while managing and conserving crucial land.
Locations where we offer prescribed burning services include:
- North Carolina
- Puerto Rico
- South Carolina
Contact us to get an estimate or to discuss all your prescribed fire-related questions with our Atlanta helicopter experts today!