Conair water bombers arrive in Kamloops for summer wildfire rotation

May 15, 2023

KAMLOOPS — Conair water bombers have arrived at their posting in Kamloops for the summer. six skimmer aircraft, and one bird-dog will service the BC interior with wildfire fighting aviation for the season. The fleet consisted of one scout aircraft, as well as a large four-engine RJ85 water bomber, and six smaller AT-802 air tractor water skimmers.

The air tractor water skimmers are amphibious aircraft designed to skim the tops of lakes, fill their tanks, and attack fires. The water skimmers are able to make multiple runs in a day using water collected from the surrounding lakes. Six is considered the minimum amount effective to battle wildfires, the trade off for more runs is smaller loads. The AT-802 only has a flight time of four hours, but it is able to stop and refuel.

The larger RJ85 needs to return to Kamloops to have its water tank refilled at the airport. There are special flame retardant silos installed at the airport to do so, the RJ85 clears out a far larger area with more effective fire suppression methods, but can usually only make a single run in a day.

The final aircraft, the ‘Bird Dog’ acts as a scout. The aircraft is fitted with extra radios for communication, as well as specialized infrared sensors for seeing through the smoke at the fire. The Bird Dog acts as team leader, and helps coordinate the water bombing operations.

The first Conair operation will be in the northeast of the province, up near Fort St. John, where three wildfires of note threaten communities surrounding the town.

(Source: CFJC News Today, Noah Rishaug)


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