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Water bombers added to Manitoba fire fleet

Two new water bombers join the Manitoba fire fighting fleet
Two new water bombers join the Manitoba fire fighting fleet

Staff writers

May 3, 2012 — With forest fire season already underway, the Manitoba government is stepping up efforts to battle flames with the addition of two new water bombers.

Water bombers help battle fires from the air
Water bombers help battle fires from the air

The Manitoba government is adding two more waterbombers to its fleet of fire-fighting aircraft.

On Thursday, the province showed off two new Bombardier CL-415 turboprop waterbombers. The aircrafts  will allow for an increased capacity to fight forest and grass fires throughout the province. 

"We've got the new turboprop engines on these, and also boosted flight controls," says Captain Graeme McIver, a water bomber pilot. "The old flight controls on the older aircraft were all manual. These ones are hydraulically boosted flight control, so it reduces the pilot workload quite a bit."

The planes cost about $30 million each and come to the province as part of a $126 million contract for four new aircrafts being delivered in stages.

The water bombers should see plenty of action this season. In fact, dry weather conditions already have the fire season off to a roaring start.

"So far this year about 60 fires have been burning where the province has been called in, but many more than that have been burning in the municipalities where the municipalities were able to contain the fires," says Gord Mackintosh, Manitoba Conservation Minister. 

A drier spring has likely contributed to the early fire season. Still, officials are hopeful that they'll have Mother Nature on their side. 

"We're still counting on some good precipitation to build up the ground water in central and eastern parts of the province," says Gary Friesen of the Manitoba Conservation Fire Program. "So if that occurs through these next rain events it will probably alleviate that situation. And then from there on in we're counting on timely rains."

There were 315 fires that burned a total of 126,800 hectares last year in Manitoba, compared with the 16-year average of 492 fires and 183,059 hectares.

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