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Wildfires are big business for chopper firms
With wildfires burning across virtually all of British Columbia, this is shaping up to be one of the busiest years on record for helicopter firms engaged in helping government agencies fight forest fires.
"You would have to go back to the early 1970s to find anything that might compare,'' said Jacob Forman, an operations manager with Yellowhead Helicopters Ltd. in Valemont, B.C.
Forman said helicopters are an indispensible tool in the battle against wildfires because they can quickly transport, people, water and supplies in and out of fire ravaged areas. Choppers can also deliver water to designated areas more accurately then fixed wing aircraft.
It is why there are currently 415 helicopters engaged in fighting wildfires in B.C., according to Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre's (CIFFC) national wild land fire situation report.
That includes eight Yellowhead machines, or just over 50 per cent of the company's fleet.
"In all of my years in the business, I don't think I have ever seen so many helicopters on hire in one province,'' said Forman.
He was referring to the fact that it has been a relatively lean year for wildfires in other parts of the country.
CIFFC says there are currently 322 full response fires burning in B.C. That compares to only two in Ontario and none in Quebec.
Forman says helicopter firms don't like to see people being evacuated from their homes. But he said the outbreak of so many fires in B.C. this year, means 2009 should be a profitable year for companies involved in fighting wildfires.
"It has that potential,'' he said.