Transportable dip tanks for helicopters

Grayback Forestry 11,000-gallon dip tank
Greyback Forestry 11,000-gallon dip tank. Grayback Forestry photo.

After publishing our article last week about the permanent “heli-hydrants” being built in Orange County, California, I thought I’d write about transportable tanks that can serve as water sources for helicopters. Portable, or transportable, water tanks have been used for decades for refilling helicopters or to serve as a temporary water storage facilities at structure or wildland fires. They may be collapsable with flexible sides, or hard-sided and transported on flatbed trucks. The tanks can be filled with retardant, other water enhancement products, or plain water. Helicopters can refill a water bucket by dipping it into the tank, or if equipped, use a large diameter hose on the helicopter with an attached hydraulic-powered or electric pump to refill an external or internal water tank on the aircraft.

For example — Greyback Forestry has various sizes of dip tanks that are transported on trailers or flatbed trucks. The company can also supply mobile mixing systems that use a proportioner to mix enhancement products into the water which improve its ability to slow the spread of a fire.

West Coast Water Tenders operates two tanks they call Heli Troffs that have wheels so they can be towed behind trucks. One holds 18,000 gallons and the other,  8,000 gallons.

Heli Troff, 18,000 gallons
Heli Troff, 18,000 gallons. West Coast Water Tenders photo.
Heli Troff, 8,000 gallons
Heli Troff, 8,000 gallons. West Coast Water Tenders photo.

The Heli Troffs, now operated by West Coast Water Tenders, were invented by Keril Keiser and later acquired by West Coast, according to Andrew Sarvis of West Coast. The white one has an automatic refill system and the company has plans to install one on the larger yellow tank, which they call “Goliath.”

When not assigned to wildfires, West Coast works for movie and television studios providing special effects such as “rain” and wet downs for shots. They can also support studios with fire protection as needed.

Heli Troff Air-Crane refilling
Air-Crane refills from the 18,000-gallon Heli Troff. West Coast Water Tenders photo.
Transportable mixing plant
Transportable mixing plant for BlazeTamer water enhancer used with the Heli Troffs. West Coast Water Tenders photo. In the background to the right is a yellow flexible-sided portable water tank, often called a Fol-Da-Tank.

Below is video of a helicopter dipping into a Greyback tank which contains a blue water enhancement product.

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4 thoughts on “Transportable dip tanks for helicopters”

  1. Large, heavy steel tanks as shown are interesting, but inefficient for rapid or remote deployment. We have designed & operated hexagonal dip tanks in Australia for some years now. Each tank is 22,000 litres / 5,800 US gallons & is comprised of 6 aluminum frame walls & a double lined vinyl liner. The system is lightweight, & can be set up by just two people in 10 mins. Broken down, multiple tanks can be readily transported by a pickup / trailer. These have demonstrated over years that they are robust enough to cope with hits from long line buckets & the rotorwash from an Aircrane. Happy to share photos & information.

    1. Interesting view Colin, but in accurate, I can set up my Heli Troffs with one person and filled once we are on location in as little as 30 minutes, the water truck is full of water, we flip a switch , it sets itself on the ground, we hook up some hoses, and the water tender immediately begins the fill. So it is very quick and as soon as we drain it, one man can hook it back up to the truck and raise it off the ground, and down the road we go to the next location. This can all be done with one operator and water tender.

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