Alberta Wildfire is utilizing a brand new instrument that it hopes will give it an higher hand when preventing wildfires: a nighttime wildfire preventing helicopter.
The helicopter was used on a number of fires through the 2023 wildfire season, together with ones burning close to Little Crimson River Cree Nation, Edson and East Prairie Metis Settlement, to help with dropping water on fires, reconnaissance and transferring personnel.
This previous wildfire season was the worst in Alberta’s historical past. A complete of 1,094 wildfires burned greater than 2.2 million hectares; the earlier file was 1.35 million hectares burned in 1981.
Alberta is at first of a five-year contract to trial the helicopter, and it’s believed to be the one province within the nation presently with one. It additionally trialled the helicopter in 2022.
Talon, the Richmond, B.C., firm that Alberta Wildfire is contracting with, stated it beforehand did an evening firefighting trial with B.C. Wildfire in 2020 for 2 nights however it has not completed any additional operations with the province of B.C.
“It’s quick. It’s extremely succesful,” stated Aaron Barnhardt, a provincial helicopter specialist with Alberta Wildfire.
“However the large factor is the night time imaginative and prescient expertise… Folks within the helicopter have night time imaginative and prescient goggles on. They amplify gentle as much as 60,000 occasions … so that enables us to navigate, see hazards, establish energetic elements of a wildfire.”
In response to Talon, the helicopter has a 900 litre water tank, which could be crammed in as little as 20 seconds, and its inside and exterior lighting has been modified to permit pilots to put on night time imaginative and prescient goggles.
“It provides us one other instrument to work with,” Barnhardt stated, including crew members would require specialised coaching to make use of the night time imaginative and prescient goggles.
“Firefighting at night time could be more practical on account of decrease temperatures, greater humidities and it is one thing that I believe our group might do higher at. We recognized it as sort of one thing we might work on and this plane is a instrument to assist not simply aerial firefighting at night time, however it will possibly assist to assist floor firefighting, like heavy tools and crews.”
Higher for smaller wildfires
Mike Flannigan, a B.C. Innovation Analysis Chair for predictive companies, emergency administration and fireplace science at Thompson Rivers College in Kamloops, B.C., stated there are benefits to preventing a fireplace at night time however he stated there are challenges.
“You want to be very cautious as a result of your visibility, even with the expertise, remains to be lowered from daytime,” he stated.
“Fires are often quiet at night time, however conditions like we’re seeing in California proper now and what we noticed in Maui earlier — fires can rage at night time…. The helicopter will not be very environment friendly except it is a small fireplace.”
Regardless of that, Flannigan stated the helicopter may very well be a game-changer.
“If the rollout is profitable in Alberta, different fireplace administration companies throughout Canada will probably be it and seeing the teachings realized in Alberta,” he stated.