Wildfire-fighting all-terrain prototype arrives in North Okanagan

It could be the latest tool available to fight wildfires in difficult terrain. A final prototype of an all-terrain, tank-like, water carrying machine made a stop in the North Okanagan to show off its capabilities to stakeholders. Kimberly Davidson reports.

It could be the latest tool available to fight wildfires in difficult terrain.

A final prototype of an all-terrain vehicle and water-carrying machine stopped in the North Okanagan on Saturday for a demonstration.

This was one of several stops the vehicle has made across North America.

This type of track vehicle is already in use by the Canadian military and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Engineers at a Canadian-based company, UTV International, believe they could be very useful for fighting wildfires in difficult terrain.

“I partnered up with a consultant. Turns out instead of just him being a firefighter for 25 years, he was actually building fire trucks for 20,” said UTV International engineer Erik Paldy.

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The firefighter and fire-engine designer is B.C.-based Tony Jumeau, who was eager to step in to help design the unique machine.

“One of the things that I saw personally was a lot of trucks getting stuck in soft surface-type areas. I knew there was definitely a home for track vehicles,” said Jumeau.

The ATV has several distinguishing features, including how it is powered.

“It’s a diesel engine made into a generator. That generator charges a battery and that’s what we use for sending the power to the electric motors in each track system,” said Paldy.

According to engineers, the electric motors give the vehicle the torque it needs to climb steep hills.

Beyond that, it’s equipped with a myriad of firefighting tools including an almost 7,600-litre water tank and its own suppression system.

“It’s an ultra-high pressure. We use up to 1500 PSI and we can actually use it for cutting root systems and getting right into those areas that are very hard to get,” said Jumeau.

Lumby Fire Chief Tony Clayton said these vehicles could be used anywhere in British Columbia.

The estimated value of the machines is $900,000.

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