Manitoba’s capacity to fight forest fires was increased greatly with the addition of two new Bombardier CL-415 turboprop water-bombers.
Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Steve Ashton and Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh made the announcement on May 3.
“These planes hold more water, fly faster and make almost twice as many drops per hour than the older CL-215 water-bombers,” said Ashton, “these are state of the art planes and are a huge part in protecting us from forest fires.”
The two planes are the second and third of four planes that are being delivered as part of a $126 million contract, with the first arriving last year and the fourth expected in the fall.
Last year, there were 315 fires that burned a total of 126,800 hectares across the province, compared with the 16-year average of 492 fires and 189,053 hectares.
“We’ve been able to steadily reduce fires since 2004,” said Ashton, who says that the three most important elements of fighting fires are, staff, tactics and equipment, “we have all three and that’s absolutely critical.”
The water-bombers that have been used in the past are from 1972, and though they still have life, Ashton explains that there is no substitute for the new planes.
“It’s just much better equipment,” said Ashton, “we can still use the older ones, but we’re still looking into what we’re going to do with them as far as selling them.”
Manitoba has already seen some forest and grass fires this year, due to dry conditions, and the addition of the new water bombers proves quite timely.
“When conditions are as dry as they are this year, it’s great to know that firefighters on the ground will have support from the air,” said Manitoba Fire Commissioner Dave Schafer.
Close to half of the wildfires in Manitoba every year are caused by humans, and focus remains on the protection of lives, significant property values and infrastructure as well as forests.
“Due to an early, dry spring, we have moved early to put firefighting staff and other resources in place as a precautionary measure,” said Mackintosh.
Open fires are prohibited from April 1 to Nov 15, except with a burning permit or in approved fire pits such as campfire grates in provincial campsites. Due to the conditions, many rural areas in southern Manitoba have burning bans in place.