A CH47D Chinook helicopter owned by Coulson Aviation of Port Alberni finishes 49 drops on a fire for more than 100,000 gallons of water in the South American country of Chile on Nov. 16, 2019. COULSON AVIATION PHOTO

A CH47D Chinook helicopter owned by Coulson Aviation of Port Alberni finishes 49 drops on a fire for more than 100,000 gallons of water in the South American country of Chile on Nov. 16, 2019. COULSON AVIATION PHOTO

B.C. company sends helicopters to Chile, Australia to fight wildfires

Chile’s president meets Canadian crew to say thank you

Coulson Aviation is expanding its firefighting operations into Chile and sending more aircraft to Australia to help both countries battle wildfires.

For the next 100 days, Coulson Aviation, headquartered in Port Alberni, B.C., will be working with its new partner PESCO and Chile’s National Forest Corporation (CONAF) to fight against the current wildfire season. The CH47D Chinook helicopter that Coulson sent to Bolivia to help fight fires in the Amazon rainforest has been sent to Chile, said Foster Coulson.

The National Forest Corporation (CONAF) is a Chilean non-profit organization, through which Chile contributes to the management of the country’s forest resources. Together with the new partner PESCO, a leading company in equipment and machinery for the forestry, mining, environmental, municipal, and emerging industries, Coulson Aviation is bringing their expertise in firefighting into Chile.

“We are thrilled as a company to partner with another family-owned and operated company, PESCO, who share the same passion about delivering a world-class service as we do.” Coulson said. “With this new partnership, we have been able to secure a contract with CONAF, who for the first time will be hiring a CH47D Chinook to support their firefighting needs.”

The Chinook helicopter and Coulson’s crew arrived near Santiago, Chile, on Nov. 16 and immediately began providing structure protection. In two hours on its first day, the Chinook completed 49 drops, delivering more than 100,000 gallons of water on the fire—more than triple the amount of all the other 17 aircraft on the fire combined.

On another day, Coulson’s aircraft—the only super-heavy helicopter in the country, Coulson said—dropped two million gallons of water. “That’s a lot of water to deliver to the fire.”

READ: B.C. aviation company sends helicopters to fight fires in Amazon

Chile has faced devastating wildfires in the past. The worst fire in Chile’s modern history happened two years ago and killed at least 11 people, destroyed a town, and around 600,000 hectares of land. Climate change and the replacement of native forests with flammable eucalyptus and pine plantations is a growing threat of wildfires to Chile. Over recent years, Chile has seen an increasing number of more massive wildfires as well as an extended wildfire period.

This year, Chile expects the area burned by wildfires to double compared to last year.

The Coulson crew spent 45 days in Bolivia with three aircraft before moving into Chile, Coulson said. Two of the Sikorsky S-61s have been sent to Australia, while the Chinook travelled to Chile.

“This is the first time we have been to Chile,” Coulson said. He worked with the Canadian Embassy in Santiago, which put them in touch with PESCO, another family-owned business. Coulson has been liaising with Chile’s Minister of Emergency Services to bring their aircraft to the South American country.

Last week the Minister of Emergency Services and Chile’s president, Sebastian Pinera, visited the base to see the Canadian aircraft, Coulson said. “The president…was wishing our team well.” The team has garnered a lot of media attention in the country, he added.

The two helicopters heading to Australia were going to Victoria State. One of the company’s C-130s is in New South Wales providing support to the wildfires raging on Australia’s east coast. “Within the next month our Boeing 737 Fireliner will be flying to New South Wales and our C130 will move down to Victoria State.”

Coulson Aviation became the first in Australia to conduct night fire suppression operations successfully.

Back in Port Alberni, the next Fireliner—the company’s third Boeing 737—and will soon undergo conversion. Right now there are two other CH47D Chinooks undergoing conversion to heli tankers. “They will be ready by early next year,” Coulson said, giving the company four operational Chinooks.

“There’s definitely lots of operations so we’re doing our best to keep up with the market. When you have great team members and great aircraft, countries call on you. That’s what we’ve become, is the first call for a lot of these countries.”

Coulson Aviation now operates on three continents, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It’s exciting to see our company constantly evolving and now operating on three continents, ” Britt Coulson said.

“Our goal is to create a lasting presence in Chile for years to come.”

The partnership between Coulson Aviation and PESCO will test methods to contain the wildfires in Chile, further expanding Coulson Aviation’s global reach and industrial leadership, Britt Coulson said.

Foster Coulson said the company continues to expand the number of people it employs.

“We’re a Canadian company, we’re from a community such as Port Alberni and yet our services are required all over the world and we’re doing business all over the world,” he added. “We support all those businesses from the Alberni Valley.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley RCMP were called to the 6600-block of Glover Rd. on Thursday, Dec. 2020 after an eight car collision. (file)
8 car collision involving semi-truck a reminder to keep distance, Langley RCMP say

Police were called to 6600-block of Glover Rd. Thursday morning

Police are asking the public to help locate 46-year-old Crystal Moore who is believed to be a resident of Langley. Moore last spoke to family on Oct. 24, 2020. (Langley RCMP)
Langley police ask public to help locate 46-year-old woman

Crystal Moore last spoke to family in October

Yorkson Creek Middle School in Langley was one of three schools issued COVID-19 exposure alerts by the local district on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Google)
Three more Langley schools added to COVID exposure list

Public Health has initiated contact tracing, no direct risk

The recipients of the 2019 Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards held in Abbotsford. (Jason Brown/Revival Arts Studio)
Nominations open for 2021 Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards

Awards open to Abbotsford, Mission, Langley and Chilliwack

Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or in writing.
LETTER: Churches should be open

Some Fraser Valley churches defied orders to close and a Surrey letter writer says let churches open

(Needpix.com)
Pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ concerns for B.C. children and youth with special needs: report

Pandemic worsened an already patchwork system, representative says

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team is investigating after a 30-year-old woman died in a Newton alley early this morning after being found with gunshot wounds in a vehicle. The incident happened in the 13700-block of 75A Avenue. (Photo: Lauren Collins).
Woman, 30, dead after early morning crash, shooting in Surrey

Surrey RCMP looking for vehicle, video surveillance in area of 13700-block of 75A Avenue

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Statue of Lady Justice at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Judge finds Surrey RCMP breached two robbery suspects’ Charter rights

This was in connection with the robbery of the Ritecare Pharmacy in Surrey on Oct. 10, 2017

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

Most Read