Water-scooping planes to be used to fight wildfires

By on March 26, 2014
Rotary Club of Osoyoos President Brian Rawlings (left) presents a token of appreciation to Ben Moerkoert, guest speaker at last Thursday's Rotary lunch. Moerkoert, air attack officer with the Penticton Air Tanker Base, commanded the attacks on wildfires on Anarchist Mountain and at Spotted Lake last summer. He controls the situation from a smaller plane known as a "bird dog." (Richard McGuire photo)

Rotary Club of Osoyoos President Brian Rawlings (left) presents a token of appreciation to Ben Moerkoert, guest speaker at last Thursday’s Rotary lunch. Moerkoert, air attack officer with the Penticton Air Tanker Base, commanded the attacks on wildfires on Anarchist Mountain and at Spotted Lake last summer. He controls the situation from a smaller plane known as a “bird dog.” (Richard McGuire photo)

A new group using planes that scoop water off lakes will be used in this year’s efforts to combat wildfires in B.C..

Ben Moerkoert, air attack officer with the B.C. Forest Service from the Penticton Air Tanker Base, spoke at the Osoyoos Rotary Club’s lunch last Thursday.

Moerkoert, who directed airborne firefighters from a smaller “bird dog” plane during fires last summer on Anarchist Mountain and at Spotted Lake, spoke to the club about how wildfires are managed throughout the province.

The new scooper planes will initially be based in Revelstoke, but they’ll be used throughout the province as needed.

Until now, airplanes have exclusively dropped chemical-based fire retardant in the path of advancing fires, although some helicopters have been used to drop water.

The scooper planes can only operate in parts of the province that have access to lakes at least eight kilometres long and 800 metres wide, Moerkoert said.

The Okanagan and Shuswap areas are well suited for that, he said.

Like other airplanes used in firefighting, scooper planes will be provided by a contractor, Moerkoert said.

This will be the first year of an eight-year contract.

Moerkoert hesitated to predict whether this year’s fire season will be affected by lower snowfall this winter.

“Over the last few years I found it really hard to predict,” Moerkoert said, adding that last year he thought the fire season would be higher than usual, but it turned out to be average.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

Online Feature:

See our previous feature report with photos about the Penticton Air Tanker base and how they fight wildfires.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CAPTCHA Image

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>