Vancouver Island company inks contract with B.C. to help fight wildfires

They're known internationally as a leader in aerial firefighting efforts. Now, after seven years of not being able to fight locally, the Port Alberni-based Coulson Group finally has a small contract in B.C.

Over the weekend, the BC Forest Service accepted the company's offer to supply a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter to fight fires in the province.

Coulson Aviation President, Britt Coulson, says the helicopter is larger than typical firefighting helicopters in B.C.'s fleet.

It's since flown up from California, where the company has a large presence.

"The Type 1 aircraft in that part of the world is the backbone of the fleet," said Coulson.

"So B.C. traditionally uses Type 2 and even some Type 3 smaller aircraft, so starting to bring up Type 1s is going to make a significant difference for the fire situation here," he said.

Coulson says the island company is excited to work in B.C. once again.

"It was a great feeling," he said Monday. "It's nice to be able to give back to British Columbia where we've lived our whole lives. It's a great feeling to be able to be part of the solution."

In Port Alberni, locals are excited to hear that Coulson Group has finally landed a local contract after a lengthy stint of only working internationally.

"Last year, we were the largest operator in Australia," said Coulson. "We were the largest operator in Chile as well. So everywhere, all the other countries we work in, our assets are very desirable."

Currently, Coulson Group's contract with B.C. is only for five days. But, the company says it's at least a foot in the door for potential contracts in the future.

The company says it also reached out to the province again after a fire ripped through the Village of Lytton in the Interior last week.