A Bell 206 using a bucket during a training flight in Maranhão, Brazil
A Bell 206 using a bucket during a training flight in Maranhão, Brazil

A helicopter bucket or helibucket is a specialized bucket suspended on a cable carried by a helicopter to deliver water for aerial firefighting. The design of the buckets allows the helicopter to hover over a water source—such as a lake, river, pond, or tank—and lower the bucket into the water to refill it. This allows the helicopter crew to operate the bucket in remote locations without the need to return to a permanent operating base, reducing the time between successive drops.

Each bucket has a release valve on the bottom which is controlled by the helicopter crew. When the helicopter is in position, the crew releases the water to extinguish or suppress the fire below. Each release of the water is referred to as a drop.


A-Flex collapsible monsoon bucket
A-Flex collapsible monsoon bucket

Buckets can be collapsible or rigid and vary in capacity from 72 to 2,600 U.S. gallons (60 to 2,165 imperial gallons; 273 to 9,842 liters). The size of each bucket is determined by the lifting capacity of the helicopter required to utilise each version. Some buckets can include fire retardant foam or the ability to pump water from the bucket into an internal tank. Smaller collapsible buckets can use water sources as shallow as 1 foot (30.5 cm). Worldwide, the term monsoon bucket is widely used and accepted as a generic term. In the United States, this type of bucket is officially referred to as a helibucket.[1] The trademarked Bambi Bucket is also commonly used informally by firefighting crews to describe buckets developed by other manufacturers.


A UH-60 Black Hawk lowering a Bambi Bucket into a lake in Michigan, United States
A UH-60 Black Hawk lowering a Bambi Bucket into a lake in Michigan, United States
A-Flex Firefighting Monsoon Bucket
Collapsible bucket produced by A-Flex Technology[2]
Bambi Bucket
Collapsible bucket developed by Canadian Don Arney and produced by SEI Industries since 1983.[3] Bambi Buckets were used in 2011 to cool nuclear reactors in Japan after damage from a tsunami.[4]
Collapsible bucket produced by IMSNZ Ltd.[5]
FAST Bucket
Variable Drop, fire fighting bucket that allows the pilot to select drop patterns for bush fires to canopy fires, manufactured by Absolute Fire Solutions[6]
HELiFIRE Monsoon Bucket
Collapsible and free-standing monsoon buckets produced by Rural Fire Service in New Zealand[7]
Water Hog Bucket
Lightweight, collapsible, free-standing bucket developed and produced by Aerial Fire Control Pty Ltd since 2001[8]

See also


  1. ^ Glossary of Wildland Fire Terminology, National Wildfire Coordinating Group, pms205, October 2006
  2. ^ A-Flex Technology. "The A-Flex Firefighting Monsoon Bucket". Archived from the original on May 11, 2008. Retrieved March 14, 2008.
  3. ^ "B.C. inventor of wildfire-fighting Bambi Bucket inducted to hall of fame". Vancouver Sun, Derrick Penner, March 16, 2017,
  4. ^ "B.C. innovation helping to douse Japanese nuclear reactors". CTV News, March 19, 2011
  5. ^ IMSNZ ltd. "Collapsible Helicopter Fire Bucket". Retrieved April 28, 2009.
  6. ^ Absolute Fire Solutions. "FAST Bucket". Retrieved February 24, 2009.
  7. ^ Rural Fire Service, New Zealand. "HELiFIRE Monsoon Bucket". Retrieved March 14, 2008.
  8. ^ Aerial Fire Control Pty Ltd. "Water Hog Bucket". Retrieved January 24, 2009.