California’s wildfire crews face a unique situation – the need to conserve precious water while ensuring that an adequate supply is available for emergency response. With ocean saltwater not usable (due to corrosion of equipment), the crews must be able to access freshwater sources like rivers, reservoirs, lakes and even swimming pools. But, with low levels, access to these traditional sources can be difficult or even impossible.

This year, crews are also finding that some areas, which were reliable sources in the past, are no longer available, forcing crews and aircraft to fly further to find a new water source. As a result, in many cases, the best option has been to truck or pump water into a fillable helicopter dip tank.

SEI Industries’ Heliwell is being used for this very purpose, providing a reliable water source for fire crews desperate for a dip tank or a fire-retardant mixing tank. The Heliwell is a large-capacity portable water tank (holding up to 14,900 USG) that can be deployed in the field in less than two hours using three people and filled with water within an hour.

When taken apart, the Heliwell’s 8-10 aluminum panels can be transported by a standard size pick-up truck or slung from a helicopter, making it easy to move to a new location as fire needs demand. An optional roof system also allows the Heliwell to be pre-deployed into areas in advance of a fire. Oregon and Arizona have used the Heliwell in this manner which has helped reduce response times and put out fires while they’re still small and before they can become uncontrollable.

During times of drought, utilization of a portable dip tank like the Heliwell can help crews action fires quickly and reduce unnecessary budget overruns by keeping water sources closer to aircraft.