Nighttime aerial firefighting is common in areas such as California, but in BC and even in Canada as a whole, it would be the first time.
Leanna Ingham, Superintendent of Aviation Management for BC Wildfire Service, said the new technology was a game changer.
"It won’t be used everywhere...but this gives us more tools in our toolbox. The temperatures are down, the humidity is up and often the wind is down. So it makes the water that much more effective coming from the aircraft,” Ingham said about the advantage of nighttime conditions.
The service is using an Airbus AS365 N2 Dauphin, outfitted with a 900L tank on its belly, along with a custom night vision-friendly instrument panel in the cockpit and owned by Talon Helicopters, based in Richmond.
Not only will the new technology help with firefighting operations, it also has the potential to expand operations for search and rescue services, said Ingham. The next step would be to test the night vision technology on live fires instead of controlled campfires.
"There are some things we can’t test in a controlled environment,” said Ingham, “But we’re pretty optimistic.”