Milestone Moment: FPL’s History of Aerial Forest Fire Fighting in New Brunswick

By: Katherine MacDonald, PhD

The connection between wildland fires and forests is undeniable. In The Green Plan: Forest Fire Research, a publication put out by the Canadian Forest Service, they argue “Most Canadian forests trace their origins to historical wildfires; many require fire to maintain their species composition.” Forests rely on fires to get rid of dead plants and trees, replenishes the nutrients in the soil, and kick starts fresh growth. New Brunswick’s forests have seen massive province-wide fires with the more recent in the 1600s. While these enormous fires certainly shaped the forests we know today, typically our forests burn every 60 years. The issue comes when fires become threats to timber, human life and property, or important natural processes. This is where the connection between conservation and wildland fire fighting becomes clear.

Wildland Fire Fighting

Wildland fire fighting is a key part of preserving the natural forests in New Brunswick and they are part of a larger system to manage the woodlands. This includes aerial fire fighting, ground firefighters, the control burns to get rid of fuels and help with regrowth, removing debris, like dead plant material, which are fuels for fires, and thinning forests. With the use of aerial fire fighting, ground crews, and preventative approaches, 52.5 percent of wildland fires in New Brunswick are under control in two hours or less.

Climate Change  & Wildland Fires

This system is very important because, by the end of the twentieth century, New Brunswick was 85 percent forested and climate change was making wildland fires more common. Scientists predict a 75-120 percent increase in the area burnt in Canada by the end of the century. This is directly related to climate change and the increased temperatures and decline of precipitation. Having a wildland fire fighting system in place that includes aerial fire fighting will continue to play an instrumental role in protecting New Brunswick’s forests.

Forest Fire Suppression

Forest Protection Limited (FPL), founded in 1952, plays an essential role in wildland fire suppression in New Brunswick. Their 15 aircraft fleet works across the province to ensure that New Brunswickers and their homes are safe. Since 1975, FPL has worked with the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development to quickly stop wildfires and protect New Brunswick’s forests. Using innovative technology and equipment ensures that FPL can quickly spot fires, cool hot spots, and create retardant fire breaks where it is unsafe for ground crews to work. FPL is committed to maintaining healthy forests for New Brunswickers now and in the future.

 


→ Click here for an Interactive Map of FPL’s Aerial Forest Fire Fighting History