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Manitoba secures two new CL-415 water bombers

May 4, 2012, Winnipeg - The province showed off two of its shiny new water bombers on Wednesday, but if recent fire events continue, they won't stay shiny much longer.


May 4, 2012
By The Winnipeg Free Press

Manitoba has seen more than 60 forest fires and dozens of grass fires
this spring already. One of the biggest was last weekend near Selkirk,
where the province dispatched two water bombers to douse the flames at a
metal salvage yard.

The aircraft shown off by Infrastructure and Transportation Minister
Steve Ashton and Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord
Mackintosh are two of four to be purchased by the province to beef up
its firefighting resources, under a deal with Bombardier worth $126
million.

 

"This is a huge, huge investment," Ashton said. "Things like forest
fires, grass fires are a fact of life, and boy oh boy, are these planes
going to make a difference."

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Three of the aircraft have been delivered to the province, with the
last one to arrive this fall. With the new planes, Manitoba will have
six water bombers.

 

"These water bombers have doubled, basically doubled, our
firefighting capacity," Mackintosh said. "This really enhances the
arsenal."

 

Graham MacIver, who has been a water bomber pilot for 25 years, said
the new planes are easier on the arms when flying as the old-style
aircraft had to be wrestled manually with each turn.

 

"It was like driving around an old Ford truck without power
steering," he said. "These new ones (have) hydraulically boosted flight
controls, so it's basically flying on thumb and finger. It reduces the
pilot workload by quite a bit.

 

"You can go out on a four-hour mission on these new airplanes and
come back and you're not feeling totally exhausted, whereas on the old
airplane, you knew you had a pretty good workout."

 

Mackintosh said despite recent rain and cooler temperatures, officials predict things will flare up again soon.

Provincial fire manager Gary Friesen said conditions are still dry in
central and eastern Manitoba. About 6,000 hectares have burned so far
this year.

 

"We're counting on timely rains just to help out with the situation,"
Friesen said, adding the big concern now is with eastern Manitoba and
its risk of going up in flames because of lightning strikes.

 

Last year, 315 forest fires burned a total of 126,800 hectares across
Manitoba, compared with the 16-year average of 492 fires and 183,059
hectares of land burned.

 

About half of the wildfires in Manitoba each year are caused by humans.

 

Open fires are prohibited from April 1 to Nov. 15, except with a
burning permit or in approved firepits such as campfire grates in
provincial campsites. Due to dry conditions, many rural municipalities
in southern Manitoba already have burning bans in place.