Helicopters are a versatile fire management tool. They can rapidly transport personnel and cargo to a fire, especially in remote locations. They can also be fitted with tanks or buckets to deliver water and fire retardant to the fireline.
A helicopter bucket is a specialized bucket suspended on a cable carried by a helicopter to deliver water for aerial firefighting. Each bucket has a release valve on the bottom which is controlled by the helicopter crew.
When the helicopter is in position, the pilot releases the water to extinguish or suppress the fire below. Each release of the water is referred to as a drop. 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.