THUNDER BAY – Over the past several days, wild fires in the Thunder Bay district have been fought using CL-415 Water Bombers. The Bombardier made CL-415 is a unique aircraft designed specifically for fighting fires. Each of these planes cost about $37million. Ontario has a fleet of nine CL-415 aircraft.
Seven of those CL-415 are based in Thunder Bay or Geraldton West.
On Sunday, two of these aircraft were engaged to fight a grass fire on the Fort William First Nation. On Monday, two of the planes were engaged to fight a wild fire near Stanley.
These planes can land on a lake and scoop up 6000 litres of water, and then mix in a chemical fire retardant and drop it on a fire to help put it out.
Fighting wild fires is risky.
World-wide of the 76 CL-415 aircraft built, seven have been removed from service due to accidents. That is not a design issue but more related to the risk of flying into fires.
Operationally, the CL-415 requires 1,340 metres of flyable area to descend from 15 metres altitude, scoop 6,137 litres of water during a 12-second 410 metres long run on the water at 70 knots (130 km/h; 81 mph), then climb back to 15 m altitude.
That kind of flying takes special skills, training and bravery.
Ontario has twenty-six trained pilots based in the Northwest region of the province.