Help from Canada arrives at Medford Air Tanker Base

And, the United States has mobilized hand crews and overhead to Ontario, Canada

Above: Saskatchewan air tanker 471 lands at Medford, Oregon July 19, 2018.

Tim Crippin shot these photos of firefighting aircraft arriving at the Medford, Oregon airport July 19. The two air tankers and the Bird Dog aircraft are owned by the government of Saskatchewan. The planes were mobilized through the Pacific Northwest Compact to Oregon; it was not an action that was taken by the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC).

Tanker 471 is a Convair 440 manufactured in 1958, and Tanker 474 is a Convair 340 manufactured in 1955. They have both been retrofitted with turbine engines and have now probably adopted a new model name. Some of the converted Convairs hold up to 2,100 gallons of retardant.

The Canadians use “Bird Dog” aircraft in a role similar to lead planes in the United States. A Bird Dog usually works with two air tankers as a three-aircraft module. This one, 161, is an Aero Commander 690D.

Air tankers from Saskatchewan were also borrowed to temporarily augment the U.S. fleet in 2014 and 2015.

In September, 2015 Saskatchewan Tanker 475 and a Bird Dog visited Pierre, South Dakota on an introductory tour after the province became a member of the Great Plains Interstate Fire Compact.

Conair operates at least one turbine engine Convair 440, Tanker 42, that they call a CV-580. They have other Convairs too; a couple of them worked out of Medford in 2016, as documented by Tim.

Saskatchewan air tanker 474
Saskatchewan air tanker 474 lands at Medford July 19, 2018.
Saskatchewan Bird Dog 161 aircraft
Saskatchewan Bird Dog 161 lands at Medford July 19, 2018.

In addition to these three aircraft, other firefighting resources have been flowing across the international boundary in recent weeks from the U.S. to Canada:

  • NICC dispatched 12 wildland federal firefighters to Ontario, Canada.
  • The Northeast Compact sent resources to Ontario including three Type 2IA crews from New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. However, the New Hampshire and Maine crews were demobed earlier this week and the Massachusetts crew will be demobed on Sunday.
  • Maine will be sending a second Type 2 IA crew to Ontario on Saturday.
  • The Great Lakes Compact has sent to Ontario 10 single resources (2 aviation managers and eight firefighters).
  • Wisconsin State will be mobilizing eight firefighters also to Ontario, Canada.

No aircraft have been sent to Canada from the U.S.

CV-580s and CL-415s at Medford

Above: Air tanker 52, a CV-580, departs Medford, Oregon for the Bybee Creek Fire in Crater Lake National Park. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Tim Crippin took these photos of CL-415s and CV-580s at the Medford, Oregon Airport August 1 and 2. Some of them were working on the Bybee Creek Fire in Crater Lake National Park which has burned 720 acres since it started on July 28.

Air Tankers 261 and 262
Air Tankers 261 and 262 At Medford, Oregon this week. Photo by Tim Crippin. He said they were on the Million Air ramp waiting to go to the Bybee Creek Fire in Crater Lake National Park.
Air tanker 55
Air tanker 55, a CV-580, arrives at Medford, Oregon to reload. Photo by Tim Crippin.
Air tanker 261
Air tanker 261, a CL-415, at Medford, Oregon departs for the Bybee Creek Fire. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Canadian firefighting aircraft visit South Dakota

A visit by Canadian aircraft to the Pierre, South Dakota airport on Wednesday helped illustrate some of the features of the Great Plains Interstate Fire Compact. A new member of the organization, Saskatchewan, sent two of their firefighting aircraft to Pierre to be introduced to a crowd that included Governor Dennis Daugaard, members of South Dakota’s Wildland Fire Suppression Division, and representatives of the media.

Click on one of the photos below (provided by the South Dakota WFSD) to start a slide show of large images.

The Canadian province sent an air tanker, a CV-580A, and one of their Turbo Commander Bird Dogs, or lead planes as they are called in the United States. Saskatchewan has two CV-580As, which can hold up to 2,100 gallons of retardant, and two CL-215Ts, which can scoop 1,400 gallons of water by skimming over the surface of a lake.

One of the purposes of the Compact is to facilitate the sharing of ground and air fire resources among the member states, which include Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and now Saskatchewan. The Compact agreement allows the aircraft to be used in the six states and province more easily than if the compact did not exist.

A fun fact. The CV-580A in the photos, Tanker 475, was part of the U.S. government’s fleet four decades ago, when it was known as a C-131H and for a day was designated as Air Force One.

Below is an excerpt from an article at Air and Space Magazine:

…The hardy Convair has had a storied career of transport missions. Its 25,046 airframe hours include service with the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Department of State, and Marshals Service; the Peruvian National Police; and a Michigan cargo company. Among transports, it enjoys an exalted distinction: For at least a day, it was the presidential aircraft. On October 26, 1972, President Richard Nixon used it for a weekend campaign trip to Huntington, West Virginia, and Ashland, Kentucky. “I thought this airstrip was a little short,” Nixon told the crowd at the Huntington airport. “That is why we had to bring the Convair in.”

Its most frequent VIP customer, however, was Vice President Gerald Ford, who flew on it dozens of times from the fall of 1973 until he succeeded Nixon on August 9, 1974…

More information about the visit and the Compact are at the Capital Journal.