Port Alberni’s Coulson Group arriving in Bolivia to help battle Amazon wildfires


WATCH: Bolivia will be getting some help from Port Alberni as it battles thousands of wildfires. The fires are destroying parts of the Amazon rainforest and other critical habitat and crews from the Coulson Group will join firefighting efforts on Thursday. April Lawrence reports.

Wildfires have been tearing through the rainforest in Bolivia for more than a month destroying more than a million hectares of land.

But help from Port Alberni’s Coulson Group is on the way. Two Sikorsky S-61 helicopters are expected to arrive Wednesday night and an Antanov transport aircraft will bring the company’s CH-47 Chinook on Thursday. Some of the team leaders arrived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia Wednesday afternoon.

“Right now it’s very warm and it’s very windy which is I think what is a big contributing factor to the fires and why they’re so difficult to contain,” said Foster Coulson.

The Coulson Group has actually been working on and off in Bolivia on other contracts for the past three years so when they heard about the devastating fires, they offered support and the Bolivian government accepted.

The Sikorsky helicopters were dispatched last Friday and have been making the long journey with stops in California, Mexico, and Costa Rica. The Chinook aircraft will arrive Thursday.

“The Chinook itself it’ll be specifically dropping water, and both S-61’s are outfitted with an interior so that they can move passengers as well as they can move cargo and they also have buckets on them as well so they’ll be able to drop water and support,” said Coulson.

The Coulson crews, made up of people from Port Alberni and around the world, will work around the clock with a focus on threatened communities and wildlife sanctuaries.

“We’re actually right now the only Canadian operator in country so we’re pretty excited to be flying the flag for Canada and put our best foot forward,” said Coulson.

The Vancouver Island company has a 15-day contract but with more than 20,000 fires burning through rainforest, farm land and critical habitat, Coulson says there will likely be an opportunity to work there longer.

The company will be posting updates on its firefighting effort on its Facebook page.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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