A new air tanker than can scoop water off of a lake, like a flying boat, is now in Saskatchewan’s wildfire fighting fleet.
The new CL-215T is the fifth aircraft of its kind in the province’s wildfire management branch aviation operations. It became active this past May and was on display in Prince Albert on Friday.
“We have invested heavily in renewal of our air attack planes here in the province, as well as in the people that operate our planes that support our planes,” Environment Minister Scott Moe said, before taking a tour of the aircraft.
The new plane is able to skim 1,200 gallons of water off a lake in a matter of seconds. The plane was upgraded from a piston engine system to a turbine engine, which has increased its speed and efficiency.
“The CL-215T air tanker can deliver up to 25 per cent more water to a wildfire than its piston powered cousin,” Moe said.
“This is a significant increase that could make all of the difference in situations that we found ourselves in, in this province, just in 2015.”
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The conversion process took roughly two years, according to Moe. He added that investments in the fleet were being targeted even before Saskatchewan’s 2015 wildfire season that forced thousands in the province to evacuate from their homes.
As of Friday there have been 130 fires this season in Saskatchewan, down from the five-year average of 344. This has allowed the province to send roughly three-quarters of its 17-plane fleet to battle blazes in Montana and British Columbia.
“They like us because we’re aggressive, we’re aggressive fire-fighters. We’re safe, but we’re aggressive,” said Bob Stallard, the chief pilot of Saskatchewan’s wildfire fleet.
“The guys do a heck of a job and Saskatchewan could be very proud of the fleet they’ve got. I know I am.”
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