The Bambi Bucket Turns 40!

For the last 40 years, the Bambi Bucket has been a popular aerial firefighting tool used to drop water or fire retardant on wildfires from helicopters, developed by SEI Industries, based in British Columbia, Canada, in the early 1980s.

The idea for the Bambi Bucket came from SEI Industries founder Don Arney, who at the time was working for a company that was testing the strength of underwater salvage balloons used for boat an ship salvage. While looking at a canvas bag holding several thousand pounds of water, Arney, himself a pilot began thinking about ways to make that type of technology functional for helicopters to pick up and drop water with a bucket that he began developing in a home not far from where SEI Industries is now based in Canada. The Bambi Bucket began commercial production in 1982.

The first Bambi Bucket prototype was simple: a rubber udder attached to a canvas bucket, which worked as a valve to release the water. It was lightweight and easy to install on a helicopter and could hold up to 200 gallons of water.

As word of the Bambi Bucket spread, demand for the product grew. SEI Industries began receiving orders from fire departments and governments around the world. In the decades that followed, the company continued to innovate and improve the design of the Bambi Bucket. Today, several different sizes and models are available, with capacities ranging from 72 gallons (270 liters) to over 2,600 gallons (9840 liters.)

One of the key features of the Bambi Bucket is its ability to be filled quickly and easily. The bucket can be filled from various sources, including lakes, rivers, and swimming pools. This allows firefighters to quickly refill the bucket and get back to fighting the fire.

In addition to its use in fighting wildfires, the Bambi Bucket has also proven valuable in other applications. It has been used to provide drinking water to communities affected by natural disasters and to help control oil spills.

SEI Industries continued to refine and improve the Bambi Bucket over the years, developing new models and sizes to meet the changing needs of its customers. In the 1990s, SEI Industries began incorporating advanced technology into the Bambi Bucket introducing the  PowerFill technology which is one of the most sought after add-on accessories for the Bambi Bucket product line. During fire season, especially today, with extended drought conditions; many existing natural water sources, such as rivers, creeks, stream beds and alpine meadows are too shallow to use.

PowerFill technology allows users to fill their aerial firefighting buckets in shallow water sources where dry summer conditions limit dip site possibilities. Only 18 inches (46 cm) of water is required to pull water from the bottom up. Conventional dipping methods may also still be used when the PowerFill is installed.

With the quick connection system or the original bolt-on system, the PowerFill Snorkel can be installed in the field, by one person in a matter of minutes. The PowerFill Snorkel is available in Bambi Bucket and Bambi MAX models ranging between 216 US gallon to 425 US gallon (820 L to 1,600 L) sizes.

Over the next few decades, SEI Industries pioneered several new product lines, including the Torrentula and Bambi MAX Buckets with multi-drop capabilities with a broad range of sizes, ranging from a 180-gallon (680 liter) to 2590-gallon (9800 liter). The Bambi MAX Bucket is available with a 2-pump, or 4-pump PowerFill, internal configuration with bottom filling technology that provides fill rates of 850 or 1,700 US gallons per minute, respectively.

SEI Industries also added features to make the Bambi Bucket more durable and reliable, and accessories fitted with a 37-gallon (140 liter) foam injection system that aids dispersion by adding a detergent agent to assist with coverage.

These enhancements helped the Bambi Bucket withstand the rigors of aerial firefighting and made it more dependable in the field. In addition to its use in fighting wildfires, the Bambi Bucket has also been used in other emergency situations such as oil spills containment by dropping a special absorbent material onto the water’s surface, relocation of fish from one location to another, and even saved a life directly with the bucket by aiding in the rescue of a woman from a rooftop who was trying to escape floodwaters who climbed into a bucket right before her house was swept away below.

As the Bambi Bucket is in its 40th year in operation, it continues to be a vital tool for firefighters worldwide. Its versatility and effectiveness have made it a go-to for aerial firefighting, and it remains an important part of SEI Industries’ product line. The Bambi Bucket is a testament to the ingenuity and determination of its creators and a valuable resource for those who rely on it to keep communities safe.

Ryan Mason
Ryan Mason
Ryan is an accomplished writer and aerial photographer that has worked in the aviation industry for over a decade before co-founding AerialFire Magazine. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Ryan is a former police officer that focuses his writing and photography efforts on para-public operations and agricultural aviation.

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