B.C. inventor of wildfire-fighting Bambi Bucket inducted to hall of fame

 A Bambi Bucket is used to help douse a wildfire in Alaska in 2015. Sgt. Balinda O'Neal / AP

A Bambi Bucket is used to help douse a wildfire in Alaska in 2015. Sgt. Balinda O'Neal / AP

Salt Spring Island entrepreneur Don Arney has been a big-dream inventor since childhood. One of his earliest ideas was for a blimp/airplane hybrid and while still just 12, he drew up a proposal and sent it to the president of the Avro Canada aviation company. 

He was chuffed when he received an encouraging letter in reply, but a little chagrined later after he’d learned enough physics to realize that idea wouldn’t fly.

But the inventor trait followed him all his life and has now earned him induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Alexandria, Va. for the Bambi Bucket. The collapsible fabric container which Arney invented in the early 1980s is now the go-to standard for helicopter firefighting in 110 countries around the world.

“Right from when I was a kid I was always intrigued with the way that things worked mechanically,” Arney said.

The Bambi Bucket is collapsible (some version fold into the size of a set of golf clubs), easy to install on a standard helicopter cargo hook, easy to fill and precise — capable of releasing a column of water directly onto a fire.

After its introduction, the Bambi Bucket was adopted rapidly and Arney estimates SEI has about 95 per cent of the market for buckets used in helicopter firefighting.

“Something like this, certainly I appreciate it,” Arney said of the honour. “But it was totally out of the blue, the last thing I was expecting to see.”

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