Air tankers have touched down in Penticton, ready and able to fight wildfires if and when they arrive.
The pilots landed the three air tankers and one birddog plane at the Penticton airport on Saturday. Penticton will be their base to fight wildfires until Aug. 31. BC Wildfire Services’ contract can be extended if necessary if there is ongoing wildfire activity or continued dry conditions, said Greg Adams, BC Wildfire Services Air Attack Officer.
There are seven pilots and one air attack officer based out of Penticton.
As well, there are three aircraft maintenance engineers and two loader technicians. The loader technicians are responsible for mixing the retardant and loading retardant into the airplanes.
Fire retardant is the red substance dropped out of the bombers and onto the interface of fires.
The air tanker group in Penticton can go anywhere in the province but will primarily fight wildfires in the southern areas of B.C., said Adams. They helped with the Mount Christie fire last summer and all the fires in 2018.
There are eight air tanker groups at various locations throughout the province and 15 spread across B.C. that can be used where B.C. has heightened wildfire activity.
Wildfire season runs from April 1, 2021 and will officially end on March 31, 2022.
According to the BC Wildfire Dashboard, there have already been 154 wildfires this year, with the majority of them being human-caused.
Penticton saw three wildfires spark in one day last month.
In 2018, B.C. experienced the worst fire season on record with more than 2,000 fires and 1.35 million hectares burned, according to new statistics released by Statistics Canada.
The Christie Mountain fire last August was powerful but short lived. BC Wildfire Services managed to contain the fire less than three weeks after it started.
In southern B.C., grass fire season in typically in the spring until the grass turns green. Generally, in southern B.C., there is increased wildfire activity picking up in mid-July until mid-September. There are exceptions based on the current weather patterns.