Valhalla Pilots Fight Forest Fires

How Our Helicopters Help During Fire Season

Each summer, BC experiences numerous forest fires that destroy hundreds of thousands of hectares of land. When our beautiful woodlands burn, Valhalla’s fleet moves from scenic tours to active fire suppression.

The Okanagan is such a paradise: stunning vistas, sparkling lakes, lush hillsides and exceptional high-desert weather. While this makes it an extraordinary place to live and to visit, it also makes us susceptible to wildfire during the warmer months. At Valhalla, our pilots and engineers are well-trained in fighting these blazes. Our combination of expertise and technology allows us to aid ground forces in several ways. It’s not uncommon to spot our helicopters trekking from lake to hillside during fire season, bringing support crews, retardants, and thousands of gallons of water to the affected areas.

What sparks these fires?

The BC Interior is semi-arid, which means our forests are home to trees, plants and brush that can survive very dry, hot conditions. In the large expanse of undeveloped land, here, the ground is blanketed with dry pine needles and scrub that provide excellent kindling for fires. Lying in the rain shadow of the Cascades, we are protected from the moisture that affects most of the Pacific Northwest, but the hot summer air does create a lot of lighting. During fire season, this makes our area an ideal incubator for spontaneous fires that can very rapidly grow out of control. In addition, the popularity of outdoor activity in our beautiful region means that a number of fires are started by human activity.
Most of these are accidental (a careless drop of a cigarette, ignoring a campfire ban, etc.), but on rare occasions, they are the result of arson. The BC Forest Fire Commission investigates every single forest fire to determine the cause. Regardless of how the flames are ignited, it’s important to extinguish it as quickly as possible. Whether a wildland fire (in an uninhabited area) or an interface fire (requiring evacuation for human safety), lives are at stake, and every second counts.

That’s where we come in.

The team at Valhalla Helicopters uses state-of-the-art bucket attachments and helicopters equipped with special belly tanks to bring water to the blaze. We can scoop or suction up to 1600 litres in less than a minute. Our highly-accurate Bambi-buckets allow us to deliver water or foam in a concentrated stream directly onto a particular part of the blaze. The Bambis are also equipped with a cutting-edge system that immediately mixes a gel-based fire retardant into the water, expediently delivering the suppressive material. With our industry-leading belly tank helicopters, we can also fly directly into the danger zone with cargo and relief personnel (or take a crew of hardworking firefighters out again). Our pilots also help with evacuation when necessary.

Wildfires are a reality here in the Okanagan, especially as global warming heats up our valley. As residents prepare go-bags and endure smokey skies, the threat of fire danger looms among the Ponderosa pines. It’s comforting, then, to know that the highly-experienced pilots and engineers at Valhalla Helicopters are always ready to fly into the fray when necessary.

Learn more about Valhalla Helicopters’ aerial firefighting program and our other commercial operations.