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.”

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

Just Posted

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
UPDATE: Black bear tranquillized, being relocated by conservation officers

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Ladysmith resident Bonnie Cook lost the use of most of her basement and her backyard after experiencing a major water leak. (Cole Schisler photo)
Drip by drip: water line leaks lead to big repair bills for Ladysmith homeowners

Nearly all reported leaks occur on old copper lines that have been bent or manipulated

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ superintendent Scott Saywell at a May 6 press event showing off two new electric school buses. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district shows off electric buses

New buses anticipated to reduce 17 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from SD68 buses

An Ater-group Airon Slug identified during YES’s Bio-Blitz. (Yellow Point Ecological Society photo)
Yellow Point Ecological Society’s Bio-Blitz a big success

The Yellow Point Ecological Society held their first-ever Bio-Blitz over the weekend… Continue reading

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Most Read