BC Wildfire Service tests fighting fires from the air at night, using night-vision technology

The test flights, using helitankers, were conducted in early July near Penticton. The hope is to be able to fight active fires from above after dark.

The BC Wildfire Service has conducted successful tests of operating helitankers at night, using night-vision goggle technology.

The test flights were done near Penticton on the nights of July 6 and July 7.

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Hekitankers are helicopters equipped with water tanks.

The tests involved using the helitankers to make drops on a small, contained campfire, allowing the team to better evaluate the technology's effectiveness.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, crews experimented with different water pumps to fill the aircraft's tank. The Mark 3 pump filled the tank in about 2.5 minutes. Additional testing with other types of pumps will be considered in future to determine whether they would result in faster onload times.


Turnaround times (from loading to landing) were similar to that experienced during daytime operations, although turnaround times will vary by site and conditions at any given time.

The BC Wildfire Service said a number of different drop heights and air speeds were tested successfully to achieve different objectives.



Other observations

•Filling the tank at night takes more time than during daytime operations.

• Experimenting with higher-pressure pumps (as well as trying out field filling sites) will help increase the amount of suppressant that can be dropped on a fire.


• Standard operating procedures for aerial supervision and helitanker interaction with ground crews will continue to be refined in future trials to ensure the safe and effective use of aircraft at night.


• The use of different lighting methods by ground crews to identify targets will also be further explored.


The next phase of the night vision trials will involve responding to an active wildfire, if possible. The BC Wildfire Service said trials will continue to refine operational procedures for night-vision goggle technology.

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