North

Huge tanker plane arrives in Whitehorse to help train firefighters

It's a big plane — and hopes are, it will help put out Yukon wildfires if it comes to it.

Fire retardant 'coats the forest fuels much like water, but it lasts longer,' says air attack officer

The Lockheed L-188 Electra arrived to the Whitehorse Air Tanker base last week from Alberta, to help train and prepare Yukon firefighters for the wildfire season. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

It's a big plane — and hopes are, it will help put out Yukon wildfires if it comes to it.

The Lockheed L-188 Electra arrived to the Whitehorse Airtanker Base last week from Alberta, to help train and prepare Yukon firefighters for the wildfire season. 

It's as big as a commercial aircraft and there's only a few of them left in Canada.

"This year it looks like it's shaping up to be a busier than normal fire season," said Walter Nehring, air attack officer with Yukon Wildland Fire.

Nehring said in a busy wildfire year, firefighters may have up to 70 missions.

Its belly is filled with fire retardant and it can hold 11,000 litres. The red, almost syrup-like liquid is dropped on fires from the sky. It's made of fertilizer and firefighters would use it as a last resort — but it's more effective than water.

The plane goes back and forth from fires, and crews on the ground will rush to fill it up when it lands — even when there's no time to shut off the engines. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"It coats the forest fuels much like water, but it lasts longer. It doesn't evaporate."

Nehring said it takes 11 minutes to load the retardant into the plane.

"Usually, they can be rolling in about three minute after that." 

It goes back and forth from fires, and crews on the ground will rush to fill it up when it lands, even when there's no time to shut off the engines.

The red, almost syrup-like fire retardant is dropped on fires from the sky. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"The airplane will pull in and the props keep turning," said Nehring.

The plane is owned by a private company called Air Spray and is rented to Yukon for the summer.

The company says it's ready to travel to wherever there's danger — whether that's the U.S., South America or even Australia.

Written based on an interview by Philippe Morin

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now