British Columbia

B.C. Wildfire Service tests out new products to battle wildfires

With 563 wildfires burning in B.C., the province is looking at whether it can take advantage of a number of new firefighting technologies.

'Just because something sounds great, doesn’t mean it is great'

The B.C. Wildfire Service is testing out a number of new firefighting technologies to see whether it can improve its response. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

With 563 wildfires burning in B.C., the province is looking at whether it can take advantage of a number of new firefighting technologies.  

But as the senior officer of research and innovation with the service, Mike McCulley, told Daybreak Kamloops host, Shelley Joyce, "just because something sounds great, doesn't mean it is great."

McCulley says his team is constantly testing out new technologies to see whether they could be effectively implemented into its disaster response.

Right now, he's in Fort St. James testing out the Safeguard sprinkler systems.

A continuous water curtain

In an effort to protect the town from the nearby Shovel Lake fire, Safeguard, along with McCulley has deployed a system that uses 120 water sprinkler cannons — some of which can pump out up to 1,250 gallons of water per minute — to create a more than 180-metre-wide water curtain between the wildfire and the town.

Safeguard demonstrates its 'water curtain' technology

Currently, it's not pumping, but the team is prepared.

"We are ready to go at a moments notice should the fire get any closer to Fort St. James," said Safeguard Safety owner John Kelly.

Kelly say it's a substantial system.

"it's the biggest mass water sprinkler curtain for municipal protection that North America has ever seen." 

Because of its size, the B.C. Wildfire Service's McCulley says it's difficult to find the opportune moment to really test it out.

He says that with the unpredictable nature of fires "we just don't get those windows" to set up large response systems.

And without properly testing a product, McCulley can't determine whether to add it to its defensive measures.

Numerous products on the market

There are a number of new firefighting technologies McCulley's team is currently testing including technologies that would permit firefighters to fly at night like night vision goggles for helicopter pilots, as well as looking at different types of fire-suppressing foams and scanning technologies.

"The reality is we need to make sure they're effective," said McCulley.

"We have to put some test to this and make sure it's better than what we're currently using and, if it is, then we have to figure a way to safely implement this into our fire protocols."

You can listen to th full interview below;

Read more from CBC British Columbia

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