Helicopters are widely used in daytime forest fire suppression, conducting diverse tasks such as spotting, re-supply,
medical evacuation and airborne delivery. However, they are not used at night for forest fire suppression operations.
There would be many challenges when operating in the vicinity of forest fires at night, including scene obscuration from
smoke and dynamic changes in lighting conditions. There is little data on the use of Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) for
airborne forest fire suppression. The National Research Council of Canada (NRC), in collaboration with the Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), performed a preliminary flight test to examine the use of NVGs while operating
near forest fires. The study also simulated limited aspects of night time water bucketing. The preliminary observations
from this study suggest that NVGs have potential to improve the safety and efficiency of airborne forest fire suppression,
including forest fire perimeter mapping and take-off and landing in the vicinity of open fires. NVG operations at some
distance from the fire pose minimal risk to flight, and provide an enhanced capability to identify areas of combustion at
greater distances and accuracy. Closer to the fire, NVG flight becomes more risk intensive as a consequence of a
reduction in visibility attributable to the adverse effects on NVG performance of the excess radiation and smoke emitted
by the fire. The preliminary results of this study suggest that water bucketing at night is a difficult operation with
elevated risk. Further research is necessary to clarify the operational limitations and implementation of these devices in
forest fire suppression.