The Penticton, B.C., tanker group was dispatched on Saturday and will remain at the airport until early September or until they are no longer needed.
“This is generally around when they start to arrive. We have eight air tanker bases across the province, and this is one of the bases. There are three planes there and 28 across the province,” said BC Wildfire Service information officer Karley Desrosiers.
According to BC Wildfire Service, the Penticton tanker base is the second busiest base in the province after Kamloops, based on retardant usage.
The three tankers that are stationed at the base are ready to serve the entire region when necessary.
“They are a provincial resource, so all 28 air tankers travel to where support is needed. They could go as far as northern B.C., but also northern air tanker groups will come support in the Okanagan area,” said Desrosiers.
“There isn’t a defined boundary in which they stay and often there will be other air tanker groups that stop by to fuel up and get more retardant.”
Desrosiers said that the wildfire season is off to a relatively slow start. So far this year there have been 100 fires burning roughly 365 hectares compared to 176 fires and around 2075 hectares burned this time last year.
The community can expect to see the tankers flying around over the next couple of weeks, but given the cooler temperatures and low fire activity, these will likely be practice flights.
“They are large and they are very visible so it is not uncommon for people to see them coming and going from Penticton, but they will be heading out to areas to practice that aren’t very visible,” said Desrosiers.
“If people do see them out flying around and are concerned that there may be a fire in the area, I would say first check the BC Wildfire Service app or our public dashboard to find out if there is a fire in the area, and if there isn’t then they are likely heading out to practice.”
She added that as crews continue to train and prepare for wildfire season, this is a good time for residents to do the same.
“I think it is an important time for folks to be out preparing as well by making an emergency plan, checking out FireSmart BC, doing some cleanup around their property to get prepared for wildfires as well,” said Desrosiers.