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

Coulson Aviation 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.”

Just Posted

The river behind the ball field. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Pulled by the flow: river stirs up childhood memories

Gazette editor makes trek through Port Hardy wilderness to swim in the river

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Alert Bay council has decided to cancel Canada Day celebrations. (Alertbay.ca photo)
Alert Bay council cancels Canada Day celebrations

The decision was made in wake of the mass graves being found at former residential schools

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctos urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Coquihalla to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation is providing $1 million in funding to upgrade 3 rest areas

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

Most Read