» Bambi Bucket Fighting Fires Around the World

Bambi Bucket Fighting Fires Around the World

Aug 30 2010

Revolutionary piece of equipment made here in Delta

A staple piece of equipment in fighting forest fires around the world is manufactured right here in South Delta.

Many residents might have seen the bright orange Bambi Bucket while watching news coverage of this summer's forest fires.

The Bambi Bucket, the brianchild of Don Arney of SEI Industries, has become a symbol of the attempt to extinguish and control forest fires in this province and around the world.

Of the 270 helicopters in B.C. right now, almost all are equipped with the Bambi Bucket. Worldwide, more than 1,000 choppers and fire-fighting agencies in more than 110 countries rely on the Bambi Bucket. 

 "We have 95 per cent of market share," said Shawn Bethel, division manager of SEI Industries' aerial fire fighting division. 

Arney designed the original Bambi Bucket in the early 1980s and in doing so changed the way firefighters can attack forest fires from above. 

The design, which is flexible and can be folded up into the body of a chopper, was an improvement on the rigid, Tupperware-like devices once used to carry water to wildfires.

Once filled, the Bambi Bucket, or one of the variations - the Bambi Aqualanche and the Bambi Torrentula - can hold anywhere from 270 litres to more than 9,800 litres of water or fire retardant with a spray that can reach 100 feet or be focused to hit a tree stump.

The bucket was designed with an eye to increasing the accuracy of water drops and reducing the turnaround times for the helicopter to reload at the nearest water source. 

The serach for a sufficiently deep water source, which can be cost precious minutes when fighting a spreading wildfire, led to the design in 2001 of one of the bucket's available accessories - the PowerFill system.

The system, which is available on all new buckets but can also be incorporated into older ones, allow the helicoter pilots to fill a bucket from a water source as little as 18 inches (45 centimetres) deep.

The company has also developed a valve that allow the pilot to control the stream of water being dumped.

Over time, the Bambi bucket was eveloved to become more durable, efficent and user-friendly. Bethel said.

SEI Industries has also seen changes over the years. What was once a three-man operation working out of a small warehouse in Richmond is now a 90-person staff in 50,000 square-foot facility in Ladner's Tilbury Industrial Park.

The buckets, as well as SEI's other products, are all built an shipped from that site, however, SEI Industries' staff now also includes 50 to 60 agents worldwide, Bethel said, with centers that take care of sales and maintenance.

And while the company seems to have cornered the market, no one is resting on the laurels.

"Our motto is: If we don't take care of our customers, somebody else will." Bethel said.

by Jessica Kerr
Delta Optimist

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Aug 30 2010