HomeNewsIsland & CoastMP suggests Island-based 'air force' for fighting wildfires

MP suggests Island-based ‘air force’ for fighting wildfires

The MP for Courtenay-Alberni wants the federal government to work with a local company to build a firefighting air force.

Gord Johns recently wrote a letter to Harjit Sajjan, the federal minister responsible for Pacific Economic Development. Johns says Port Alberni-based Coulson Aviation could be involved in creating a “Quick Reaction Force,” similar to the model the company uses in California.

The MP says company president and CEO Wayne Coulson reached out to him recently to discuss the company’s international experience, and pitch the reaction force concept.

Coulson, best-known for operating the Martin Mars water bombers in BC in decades past, is now an international company that fights fires in Canada, the USA, Australia, and South America. The company has 500 employees internationally and 200 on the Island.

Johns says Coulson’s record speaks for itself. The company has been operating for five years in the LA Basin, and put out a record 180 fires in less than 12 hours, with not one structure lost.

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He says similar model could work in BC, using a fleet of heavy-lift helicopters that could operate day and night, 24 hours a day along with air tankers.

“Mr. Coulson’s vision includes three Sikorsky S61 heavy lift helicopters each with 4,000 litre tanks and 18 seats for firefighters. He proposes a crew of 18 trained firefighters per helicopter for initial attack, and a second flight crew for nighttime firefighting operations,” Johns writes. “Mr. Coulson also proposes three Boeing 737 NG air tankers which Coulson Aviation developed in Port Alberni with a patented 15,000 litre capacity tanking system that can carry 66 firefighters.”

Johns urges Sajjan to consider the proposal, and to meet with Coulson and others to learn about how the company could be an aid in future firefighting efforts.

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