Firefighting invention 'Monzoon Bucket' makes its way back to Nelson
Knock on wood; the wildfire season has been just what the public ordered as most of the province, especially the Southeast Fire Centre, has been primarily spared the horrors of 2015.
Last year the Nelson Airport was a beehive of helicopters and bird dog planes as fire crews battled the Sitkum Creek wildfire and many others in the region that kept residents on edge for majority of the summer.
Many of those helicopters used the legendary Bambi Bucket to help with the aerial assault on wildfires.
However, before the Bambi Bucket was introduced back in 1982, there was a firefighting tool that was designed for use right here in Nelson.
Thanks to the ingenuity of Nelson’s Henry Stevenson and pilot friend, Jim Grady, firefighters in the 1960s were supported from the air by helicopters carrying the Monzoon Bucket.
“Jim Grady was stationed here in the early 60’s with Okanagan Helicopters and (Jim) and my dad became good buddies,” Gerry Stevenson, son of Henry recalled.
“Jim told my dad of this idea he had for dumping water onto small fires from a chopper,” Gerry Stevenson added.
“The two of them set about developing what became known as the “Monzoon Bucket”. So this fire fighting tool has its’ roots right here in Nelson.”
The Monzoon Bucket, a water-dumpingbucket suspended on a cable carried by a helicopter with an electrically operated dump valve control from the cockpit, received its Canadian Patent on May 11, 1965.
The device is essentially a barrel that can be hauled in the cargo sling of a helicopter equipped with a release mechanism that can be actuated from the copter to release its contents.
Another application saw the Monsoon Bucket, capable of carrying 600 pounds of liquid, used for stocking a remote lake with fingerling fish.
Before the Monzoon Bucket, officially saw a 50 per cent loss caused by trucking over bumpy roads and through the tedious journey through the forest to the lake by hikers with tanks on their backs.
The bucket-like-device sold for approximately $300.
Stevenson said his dad manufactured more than a thousand of Monzoon Buckets in his machine shop and sold them all over North America, Australia and New Zealand — the latter where crews still use the apparatus to fight fires.
Stevenson said about a year ago he was able to locate one of the originals in Penticton and had it brought here to it’s home in Nelson.
“A helicopter pilot here in Nelson knew a guy who knew a guy and in short order we had a contact who had a reconditioned Monzoon collecting dust in a hangar at Penticton airport,” Stevenson said.
Recently, Stevenson was able to transport the Monzoon Bucket back to the Heritage City, where it was put into action during a demonstration at the Nelson Airport.
“I had grown up with the experience of watching the trial and errors of its development along with its success,” Stevenson said.
“Now I have grown children and several grandchildren who had heard the stories and now have witnessed the operation of this family legend.”
Henry Stevenson, who owned and operated Stevenson’s Machinery for years, passed away in May of 2015 at the early age of 99 years.
Stevenson said it would have been nice for his father to see his creation in action again.
He had also hoped the Grady family would have been able to attend the demonstration.
“It was their patriarch Jim Grady, who had the original vision of this tool,” he said.