91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Michigan chopper and fire bucket finally put to use up north

bambi_bucket 2_350-pose.jpg
Michigan State Police
A helicopter owned by the Michigan State Police is paired with what's called a "Bambi Bucket" that is used to scoop water to fight wildland fires.

The State of Michigan finally put its big water bucket and helicopter to work. The bucket and ‘copter haven’t been needed until recently.

The last few years, wet springs have meant not a lot of forest fires in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. So, the Department of Natural Resources did not hook up its collapsible 320-gallon bucket to the Michigan State Police “Huey” helicopter to fight a fire until this year. It’s been out twice.

The first was a small fire near Kirtland Community College’s Roscommon campus. The second time out was a fire near Grayling. It dipped the bucket in a nearby lake and dropped the water on the flames.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources
The Michigan State Police UH-1 or "Huey" helicopter drops a 320-gallon load of water over the forest. The bucket is owned by the DNR and the agencies work together to fight wildland fires.

“So, there was some concerns that it had great potential to become another large fire. But with the support of the helicopter and the ground crews they were able to keep it at about 20 acres,” said Daniel Laux, state fire supervisor for the DNR.

The large fire Laux mentioned was the Blue Lakes fire which kept crews busy for days.

“It allowed the ground crews to really get on that fire, you know, like keeping it in check, you know, as they were responding. And then it allowed us to not have another large fire with a big resource commitment to it. You know, when we had the one that was already currently ongoing at the same time,” Laux said.

The Blue Lakes fire damaged about 2,500 acres.

So far in 2022, the DNR has worked to suppress 138 fires, most of them smaller ones, according to the agency.

The water bucket and helicopter are based in Roscommon, which is centrally located in the northern Lower Peninsula.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
Related Content